Private arbitration is an agreed method for parties to resolve current or future legal disputes in lieu of traditional court litigation. Often, private arbitration is simpler, faster, and cheaper than going to trial in civil cases. However, this is not always true. And, sometimes, a public forum is desired to resolve a particular legal dispute for other reasons. Therefore, you should understand your options and agreements when considering this litigation alternative.
Sometimes, parties agree in advance to use private arbitration to resolve future legal disputes. You may have consciously or unknowingly done this when applying for a credit card, when buying a good or service online, and when you agree to the terms and conditions that apply to extensions of credit or other purchases. Be careful what you “click”. In some circumstances, mandatory arbitration clauses can be challenged. But, businesses can use private arbitration clauses to gain a future litigation advantage over a consumer. So, read before you “agree”. If you unknowingly find yourself in this situation, you should talk to an attorney to consider your legal options if there is a dispute.
Other times, businesses make a concerted effort to utilize private arbitration prospectively when entering into contracts like commercial leases, employment agreements, real estate purchases, or business purchases. A good reason is to help keep related proprietary or personal information confidential and otherwise not subject to the exposure of a public trial. There are important advantages to this approach in the right circumstances. Again, please seek experienced legal counsel when considering this option.
A good local resource for businesses and individuals with private arbitration needs in Oregon and Washington is the Arbitration Service of Portland (ASP), which not only provides suggested contractual language to select ASP for arbitration but also arbitration services in other situations. You can learn more about ASP here: http://www.arbserve.com/
Some attorneys also serve as arbitrators and provide similar services. When selecting an arbitrator, you should consider his/her experience and your given legal dispute to ensure your case is treated competently and fairly. Reviewing an attorney’s website to determine related practice areas and your state bar’s disciplinary records are good steps to take when considering this option.
Another advantage of private arbitration is that it may be simpler to navigate than a traditional trial process in court. But, rules, timelines, and deadlines apply. And, private arbitration will result in an arbitration award that can be filed in court to create a judgment and/or lien against the losing party and/or their Oregon real property. Consequently, you should seek competent legal counsel when considering using a mandatory arbitration clause in your contracts and also when you are involved in a lawsuit that is governed by a private arbitration agreement.
This blog was written by attorney James Underwood, who is a licensed attorney in Oregon and Washington. This blog should not be construed as legal advice for any particular person or situation. Please consult with legal counsel regarding any personal legal situation.