1724 North Pacific Avenue
Glendale, CA 91202
Phone: (818) 243-8142
As a result of California’s ongoing budget crisis during the past few years, the Los Angeles courts closed down their ADR offices in May, 2013. The LASC has also closed numerous courtrooms. Similar reductions have been occurring all over California.
California’s mandated “Fast Track” litigation program, where 50% of all civil lawsuits must be resolved or proceed to trial within one year of the filing of the lawsuit is not working well anymore. We now see waits of two or three years to get a case to trial. Down the road, it might even stretch to four or five years. Such delays will also ramp up the cost of each litigated matter.
Given the growing logjam of cases in our civil court system, attorneys need to try something new to resolve civil litigation. The most promising new ADR model is called “Arbitration-Mediation,” which guarantees complete resolution of a case in a single day.
The Arbitration-Mediation process starts with a one-half day of binding arbitration in the morning with one neutral presiding over the arbitration. At the conclusion of the morning arbitration, the arbitrator immediately issues a binding arbitration decision that is sealed, so that the parties do not know the results. The parties would then participate in a half day mediation, with a different neutral presiding over it. The mediator, just like the litigants, would be unaware of the results of the previously sealed arbitration decision.
If the mediation ends in a settlement, the sealed arbitration decision is destroyed, with the results of the arbitration award never being revealed to either side. If, on the other hand, the mediation does not result in a settlement, the arbitration decision is unsealed and disclosed to the parties and it becomes final and binding.
There are significant advantages to the Arbitration-Mediation process over other forms of ADR. First, it brings finality to the litigation process, either through an arbitration award, or through settlement via the mediation. Second, it diminishes the overall cost of litigation.
The actual cost of presenting a case through a half day arbitration is significantly lower than a one to two week trial. Court costs (and most expert costs) would be eliminated. Stipulations between the parties can streamline and simplify the issues. Medical expert opinions can be presented through medical reports and declarations and submission of medical records. In sum, thousands of dollars of litigation costs and expenses may be saved through the modest cost of the Arbitration-Mediation process.
The reasoning behind conducting the arbitration first, as opposed to mediation, is it allows the conflicting parties to see how key witnesses present themselves at the binding arbitration prior to engaging in mediated settlement discussions. Not only are the attorneys able to see how the litigants and key witnesses present themselves, but also, for example, the claims adjusters for the defendant’s insurance company may be present at the morning arbitration as well. This will undoubtedly aid in the final evaluation of the matter for settlement purposes at the afternoon mediation session.
The Arbitration-Mediation process, which costs $1,200 per party, is significantly cheaper than a one to two week jury trial, which experts estimate runs between $7,500 - $30,000. Best of all, a final disposition would resolve the case at a much earlier date than the projected three to four year wait to bring a case to trial in the near future.
Arbitration-Mediation is offered by Harvey L. Goldhammer, Esq., of Goldhammer Mediation Services, in conjunction with Akram A. Awad of Ax3 Mediations in Glendale, California, at a rate of $1,200.00 per party.