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Harrisburg Alternative Dispute Resolution Law Blog

Selecting a neutral mediator: some things to consider

Selecting a mediator is an important task for those looking to mediate a dispute. Mediators can vary in a number of different respects, including education and training, experience, style, and personality, and each of these things is important to consider in determining the appropriateness of a mediator for handling a dispute.

Pennsylvania courts require that mediators meet certain specifications, though there are no specific licensing or certification requirements. Mediator credentialing can vary at the national level, depending on the organizations with which the mediator is affiliated. Because of this, the specific level of alternative dispute resolution training varies among mediators.   

Resolving intellectual property disputes through arbitration, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at using arbitration to resolve intellectual property disputes. The desirability of resolving intellectual property disputes through arbitration lies not only in the fact that arbitration can be less expensive and less of a hassle than litigation, but also in the fact that it provides parties privacy to resolve the dispute.

One point we made last time is that, although it is possible to resolve trademark and copyright cases in arbitration, arbitration decisions on these issues do not set precedent that can be applicable in other cases. The situation is similar with patent rights disputes. There is statutory authority for parties to resolve patent infringement and validity disputes through arbitration, but the award is unenforceable until the United States Patent and Trademark Office is given notice, and awards in such cases are only binding between the parties. 

Resolving intellectual property disputes through arbitration, P.1

Mediation and arbitration can be effective avenues for resolving a wide variety of disputes. Each dispute, of course, involves unique considerations, among which are included the positions of each party on the points in dispute, each party’s ability and willingness to enter into negotiation, the area or areas of law involved in the dispute, and the likely outcome of the case if it went to court.

One area where mediation and arbitration can be used effectively is for intellectual property disputes, those involving copyright, patent and trademark rights. For businesses, it is important to secure and defend these rights, and there are multiple ways to do this. One way of doing so is to enter into an agreement which mandates the arbitration of disputes concerning intellectual property rights. 

Medical malpractice mediation: considering some of the issues, P.2

In our last post, we began discussing some of the difficulties parties can face in medical malpractice mediation. As we noted, medical malpractice litigation can involve highly specialized knowledge and it is necessary not only for parties to establish a dialogue with each other that involves a mutual understanding about such matters, but which can also be understood and appreciated by the mediator.

While a mediator need not have firsthand experience in the medical profession, having a medical background can be helpful, as can experience handling medical malpractice litigation. Knowing what the parties will be facing should the mediation fail and they decide to take the dispute to court can help frame the negotiations in mediation, particularly in mediation styles which are more evaluative.

Medical malpractice mediation: considering some of the issues, P.1

Mediation can be a useful tool in a variety of types of dispute, from construction projects to divorce to employment and labor law matters. In most mediation cases, the goal is to help the parties discuss their positions, understand each other’s underlying interests and to negotiate a sustainable agreement that can be enforced as a contract in a court of law. Depending on the area of dispute, there can be various challenges to achieving this goal.

One area where medical malpractice mediation can be potentially challenging is that such disputes can involve highly specialized medical knowledge. The issues of determining the proper standard of care and causation can be particularly challenging. In litigation, expert witnesses are typically produced to address such matters, but it may be necessary to consult with experts in medical malpractice mediation as well. While mediation is not litigation, such matters can impact the course of mediation with respect to the solutions proposed and the terms to which the parties are willing to agree.

Wells Fargo insists its imaginary clients agreed to arbitration

Whatever you think about mandatory arbitration clauses, they require consent. The First Amendment implies that people generally have the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In other words, in the U.S. it’s fundamental that participants in mandatory arbitration have legally waived their right to bring the case to court.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the scandal at Wells Fargo. Under immense performance pressure, Wells Fargo employees opened some 2,000,000 accounts, often on behalf of existing customers, without the customers’ consent. Many of the victims were charged fees on those accounts, a fact that has brought on a storm of litigation.

Can I modify or change my arbitration award? P.2

Previously, we looked at some of the circumstances under which an arbitration award may be vacated. In addition to that, there are also cases where an arbitration award may be modified or corrected. Such circumstances include cases where the arbitration award reflects a miscalculation of figures or an incorrect description of a person, property or thing in the award.

Modification or correction can also be granted in cases where an arbitrator issues an award on an issue that was not submitted to the arbitration and it is possible to correct the award without affecting the decision based on the issues that were submitted. A third type of cases where correction or modification can be granted is when the award has some type of formal deficiency which does not affect the merits of the case. 

Can I modify or change my arbitration award? P.1

Last time, we wrote briefly about a recent Pennsylvania case which highlighted the fact that courts take into account the actions of parties to an arbitration agreement when determining the validity of the agreement. In the case we’ve been discussing, a party which believes itself to have entered into a valid arbitration agreement but which takes actions reflecting that belief may not be able to have the agreement declared invalid later on.

Getting an arbitration agreement overturned primarily depends, of course, on whether the agreement was valid in the first place. As for arbitration awards, as we’ve previously noted on this blog, they are generally enforceable in court. There may be certain instances, though, where an arbitration award may be vacated, modified or corrected.

Actions of company vis-à-vis arbitration agreement influence appellate court’s decision to uphold aw

Earlier this month, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania—the state’s intermediate appellate court—upheld a decision made by a lower court upholding an arbitration award of over $9,000. That award reportedly went to a uniform and linen supply company who had contracted with a muffler and brake company.  The linen company ended up returning the muffler company’s check due to insufficient funds and requested instead payment by certified check or cash.

The linen company accused the muffler company of failing to fully pay for its services and for breaching an agreement they had reached. Under that agreement, the parties had also agreed to binding arbitration in the event of a dispute. At arbitration, it was determined that the companies had entered into a valid contract and ruled in favor of the linen company.

3rd Circuit: Arbitration 'conscientious objectors' allowed to sue

When it comes to resolving employment-related disputes, many companies have determined that a resolution in arbitration is desirable. Ideally, arbitration is less expensive and more final. It gives the employee an opportunity to have grievances heard by someone other than management, and it gives the company a more private resolution without the risk of negative publicity.

Employees sometimes feel that arbitration is not in their best interest, however. For example, if a large group of workers has the same complaint, it would be more costly for each one to bring a separate complaint to an arbitrator than it would be to file a class-action lawsuit. Moreover, arbitrators may not always resolve similar complaints the same way, which could lead to different outcomes for essentially the same problems. Also, in employment disputes in particular, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the power to issue orders and obtain consent decrees, which individuals may not be able to obtain though arbitration.

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