Arbitration Attorneys in Houston
The arbitration lawyers at Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., help civil litigation clients arbitrate their claims in an aggressive and efficient manner. An arbitration claim is riskier than a court case because appeal rights are virtually non-existent. This means you need to present your case as fully and strongly as possible before the arbitrator.
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution or “ADR” that resolves civil lawsuits without going to court. Each party’s evidence is presented to an independent arbitrator who then makes a decision. There is no courthouse, no jury and no judge (unless the arbitrator is a retired judge). Unlike mediation which is non-binding, arbitration decisions are binding and final.
Why do People use Arbitration?
While arbitration can be mandated by statute, regulation or just by agreement of parties in a lawsuit, the vast majority of arbitrations occur because people have agreed to do so in a contract. The contractual language is usually referred to as an “arbitration clause.” In such a contract clause, the parties agree to submit any dispute over the contract to binding arbitration. If a dispute does arise in the future and one party files a lawsuit, the defendant can put a stop to the lawsuit and force the case into arbitration. Courts regularly and strictly enforce arbitration agreements.
They broke our contract but there is an arbitration clause. What do we do?
Who Selects the Arbitrator?
The terms for the selection of the arbitrator are contained in the arbitration clause itself. The clause can name a specific person as the arbitrator in the event of a dispute or can specify a specific organization such as the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) to manage the process. AAA provides a process to make an arbitrator selection by allowing the parties to choose from a number of candidates and then take turns striking names off the list until one name remains.
How is the Hearing Handled?
The arbitration hearing proceeds much like a trial except there is no jury. Unless the arbitrator states otherwise, the hearing starts off with opening statements by the lawyers. Each side then calls witnesses and introduces documents and other evidence and it usually ends with closing arguments. At the end of the hearing, the arbitrator usually adjourns and gives a written opinion weeks or even months later.
What About Appeals?
One of the downsides to the process is that the standard arbitration clause provides that there is no appeal from the arbitrators’s decision. This means that the losing side has almost no avenue of appeal in the event the arbitration makes a bad decision. Usually, people losing an arbitration can only appeal if there is some fraud on the part of the arbitrator.
Is Arbitration Expensive?
The filing fees in an arbitration are more expensive than court costs and it is often cost-prohibitive in smaller cases. However, the overall costs of arbitration are usually lower than civil litigation in court because the process itself is faster than going to court. Furthermore, the discovery process is less complicated and expensive in an arbitration so the overall cost is usually less than filing a lawsuit.