Alternative Dispute Resolution is in essence defined as any method of resolving disputes other than litigation or going to Court. Two of the most common forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution are arbitration and mediation.
Mediation can be an informal alternative to going to Court or, in North Carolina, it is an often used method to try to reach a resolution of issues after the parties are in Court. Any case filed in North Carolina Superior Court will be ordered by the Court to go to mediation. The parties may only dispense with mediation upon an Order of the Judge allowing them to bypass it. Mediation is often a very successful mechanism by which the parties can reach a resolution and resolve their issues. Typically, there is a mediator who is a trained negotiator and often holds a certification from the State to conduct mediations. The parties will gather in front of the mediator and each side will give its thoughts on the case. At that point, the parties will break out into separate rooms and the mediator will act as a negotiator in an attempt to resolve the issues. The mediator often goes back and forth between the parties until such time as a resolution is either reached or it becomes clear the parties will not reach an agreement and the mediation will be impassed. The mediator cannot force the parties to settle, but if a settlement occurs the mediator will often reduce it to writing and it will therefore be binding on the parties.
Another alternative dispute resolution mechanism is arbitration. Arbitration is in essence a simplified version of a full trial after the parties have conducted discovery. During an arbitration, the parties often engage in limited discovery and the Rules of Evidence are less stringent. The arbitration often occurs in front of a panel consisting of three arbitrators. The process begins by each party selecting a proposed arbitrator of their choosing and then those two arbitrators select the third arbitrator to sit on the panel. Just like a trial, the parties present their evidence and case to the arbitration panel who then renders a decision that, depending on the circumstances, may or may not be binding on the parties.
There are other types of alternative dispute resolutions that can be utilized by the parties and the attorneys here at Fisher Stark, P.A. are well versed in many of them. We routinely conduct mediations as well as arbitrations involving our clients. While we are trial attorneys and enjoy the Court process, often times a mediation or other alternative dispute resolution mechanism is in everyone’s best interests as they make an attempt to resolve their matter. If you or someone you know has questions concerning alternative dispute resolution or you find yourself facing an arbitration or upcoming mediation, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Fisher Stark, P.A. for a consultation at 828-505-4300.