Arbitration is a procedure for resolving disputes before an agreed-on arbitrator, and under agreed-on rules, rather than suing in court. Contracts of all descriptions, such as employment contracts, brokerage and financial advisor contracts, corporate acquisition agreements, contracts for the sale of goods, and various consumer contracts, may contain arbitration clauses in which the parties have agreed to arbitrate their disputes. Briol & Benson is highly experienced in every phase of arbitration proceedings, including the sometimes complex judicial litigation that may be necessary to compel arbitration, resist arbitration, appoint an arbitrator, confirm an arbitration award, or appeal an arbitration award. We can help you identify the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration vs. litigation and to pursue your rights or defend against claims in the arbitration forum.
ENFORCEMENT OF ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS
Parties agree to arbitration clauses to reduce the time and expense of litigation, but often a party must litigate in court to compel a non-cooperating party to arbitrate or to defend itself from an overreaching demand for arbitration. Because state and federal laws favor arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism, motions to compel arbitration usually succeed. Where the dispute falls outside the scope of the arbitration agreement, however, or the validity of the arbitration agreement is challenged, the case can be a close one. We are experienced in the enforcement of arbitration clauses and familiar with the applicable statutes and case law that enable parties to compel arbitration or to resist unfounded demands for arbitration.
ARBITRATION REQUIRED BY CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT
The parties to a contract may have included an arbitration clause to avoid the expenses of court litigation. We have extensive experience trying a wide variety of disputes in the arbitration forum, ranging from individual investor securities fraud claims to claims arising from corporate acquisitions. Depending on the nature of the claims and the amounts at stake, discovery in arbitration can involve depositions and extensive document discovery as well as discovery-related motion practice. The arbitration hearing may last a day or many weeks.
When the award has been rendered, a party may seek to benefit from the limited opportunities to appeal to a court, or may have to seek conformation of the award in court and oppose the adverse party’s appeal. We are experienced in every phase of arbitration and arbitration related litigation. Our firm has been involved in making the law in Minnesota. For example, we secured the availability under Minnesota law of punitive damages in securities arbitrations. See Kennedy, Matthews, Landis, Healy & Pecora, Inc. v. Young, 524 N.W.2d 752 (Minn. Ct. App. 1994).
We have successfully arbitrated securities fraud claims in cases too numerous to describe.
We successfully compelled arbitration in a former employee’s $20 million claim for stock options. The case settled favorably for the employer after we prevailed on summary judgment following a 6-hour hearing before a retired chief judge acting as arbitrator.
We successfully tried the arbitration of a $20 million fraud claim arising from a corporate acquisition, limiting the award to liquidated contract damages.
The parties to any dispute are free to agree to arbitrate the dispute, even if they do not have an arbitration agreement. Arbitration offers many advantages over litigation, but in some cases the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages. If arbitration is an option in your situation, we will help you weigh the costs and benefits of arbitration (or other Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures) over litigation.
Arbitration, mediation, and use of a Consensual Special Master are ADR methods favored by the courts. The parties and their lawyers have more control over the proceedings and more frequent access to the decision-maker. Depending on what the parties agree to, the proceeding may reach finality more quickly and less expensively than litigation.
Voluntary arbitration is rare. If the parties are able to negotiate an arbitration agreement, they may be able to negotiate the merits. In your situation, voluntary arbitration, or some other ADR mechanism, may be feasible.
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