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Alternative Dispute Resolution

handshake2.jpg In years past, when parties had a dispute, they resolved it by filing a lawsuit. In the last decade, however, parties – and New Jersey’s courts – have increasingly resorted to alternative dispute resolution (often called “ADR”) instead of lawsuits. There are two main types of ADR, arbitration and mediation.

In arbitration, the parties agree that one or more neutral persons, known as “arbitrators,” will hear testimony, review evidence, and make a final decision which the courts will enforce as binding upon the parties. There is a limited amount of discovery of evidence in arbitrations, so the process is faster and generally less complex.

With limited exceptions, there is no opportunity for appeal and the arbitrator’s decision is final. Parties to arbitration give up certain rights, such as the right to a jury trial or to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. Because arbitration is faster, less complex, and results in a final decision, it can be significantly less expensive in the long run. However, that is not to say that arbitration is necessarily a “cheap” process.

One of the more common organizations that people tend to use to arbitrate their disputes is the American Arbitration Association (or “AAA”). The AAA is an administrating organization of the arbitration which helps to assign an arbitrator with sufficient knowledge of the laws and issues involved in the dispute, set forth rules, and facilitate and manage the process of the arbitration. The expenses related to the arbitration vary depending on the specific arbitrator chosen (given her education and experience) and the purported value of the claims.

In the case of labor disputes between employees and employers, the parties may even use the New Jersey State Board of Mediation which was established pursuant to the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act to provide an agency to help promote the prompt settlement of labor disputes.

In mediation, parties agree to use a neutral person, known as a “mediator,” to help them negotiate and reach a voluntary settlement. Mediation allows the parties to control their own destinies by making the final decision on the matter themselves, rather than allowing a judge, jury, or arbitrator impose a decision on them. It also saves the expense and time of discovery and litigation and is therefore faster and less expensive than either litigation or arbitration. However, since the parties are clearly disputing some matter, it may be difficult, even with the aid and advice of an educated mediator, to resolve the matter among themselves.

Parties often take part in mediation as a side track to their litigation. In such cases, the ongoing litigation helps to further motivate both parties to mediate and avoid the continued time and expense of litigation.

ADR is not the right solution in every situations, but it is often a cost-effective way to resolve disputes which should be considered.

McLaughlin & Nardi’s attorneys are experienced with asserting and defending claims through litigation, mediation, arbitration, or a combination of them in some cases. Indeed, Maurice W. McLaughlin, Esq., a partner at McLaughlin and Nardi has been serving as a mediation for New Jersey’s Superior Court for more than a decade. McLaughlin & Nardi’s attorneys are also experienced at counseling clients regarding their rights and options regarding choosing the best process for their clients. To contact us to learn more about what we can do to help, please visit our website, or contact one of our New Jersey lawyers by e-mail or telephone at (973) 890-0004.