Disputes regarding contracts are common. Some are minor disagreements, while others can be more serious.
When the disputing parties are not able to resolve the issue on their own, there are various methods they can choose to fix the problem. Of these, litigation is the most well-known, but there are alternatives.
The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation discusses that the most familiar process is litigation. This involves a plaintiff and defendant, and their attorneys present their cases in front of a judge or judge and jury. This process is often lengthy and includes discovery and lots of preparation. Sometimes litigation cases with a trial in court, but many times both parties are able to come up with a settlement before this occurs.
Because of the time and expense involved with litigation, many parties choose a different resolution path. The California Courts discusses that mediation is one of the more popular alternative dispute resolution options. A mediator, who is a neutral party, guides discussions between the two parties and helps them come up with a resolution together. Compared to litigation, parties have more control of the outcome.
Arbitration is a bit of a combination of mediation and litigation. Similar to mediation, it occurs in front of a neutral party outside of court. Similar to litigation, each side presents its case and evidence to the neutral party, the “arbitrator”. The parties may conduct discovery and bring motions before the arbitrator during the process. In the end, an arbitration is conducted similarly to a trial in court. After hearing each side, the arbitrator makes a decision. Some arbitration cases are binding, while others are not. If not, the case can move to a trial court if one side does not agree with the decision.