If you are facing a business-related dispute, whether a contract dispute with a vendor or an impasse between partners or shareholders, it is important to consider the options you have available. While one option is certainly to litigate all the way to trial (assuming that one or both parties have legitimate and substantial claims), you may have other options as well. In fact, in a contract-related dispute, the terms of your agreement may even dictate use of an alternative method of dispute resolution.
Methods of Resolution for Business and Commercial Disputes
Here is a brief overview of the different methods of dispute resolution:
Litigation is what you think of when you picture a prototypical complex dispute: One party sues the other, and then through pleadings, discovery, and a series of hearings and motions, the parties work their way toward a trial in court. The judge (or jury) weighs the admissible evidence, and renders a decision in favor of one party or the other on each of the individual claims involved in the dispute. Taking a case to trial can easily take a year or longer, and by its nature is the most adversarial form of dispute resolution.
In arbitration, the parties agree to resolve their dispute by presenting their arguments and evidence to a neutral third-party arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators). Arbitrators' decisions are binding, somewhat similar to a judgment in court. Arbitration generally involves some level of discovery, though the overall formalities in arbitration are limited as compared to those in traditional litigation.
In mediation, the parties agree to work together with the help of a neutral third-party mediator to reach a settlement. Unlike an arbitrator, the mediator does not render a decision. Instead, the mediator plays a collaborative role, helping each party see the other's position and offering suggestions for working toward a mutually-agreeable compromise.
The fourth option is to negotiate a settlement without the help of an intermediary. Settlement is by far the most common form of resolution for business disputes, although settlements are often the byproduct of the parties initiating litigation or arbitration. Parties have substantial flexibility when negotiating the terms of a settlement, and with experienced representation on both sides, parties to all types of business disputes can negotiate creative settlements that allow them to move past their differences.
Which Method Makes the Most Sense for My Dispute?
So, which method makes the most sense for you? This is not an easy question, and the answer will depend on a number of different factors. For example, as we mentioned above, contracts will often contain "dispute resolution" provisions that mandate use of mediation, arbitration or both before either party can file a lawsuit in court. Whether you have an interest in maintaining a working relationship after the dispute is over can come into play as well. Conversely, if the opposing party is being unreasonable, you may not have a choice other than to slog through contentious litigation.
Speak with an Attorney at Michael L. Feinstein, P.A. about Your Business Dispute
If you are facing a business or commercial dispute and would like to discuss your options with an experienced Fort Lauderdale trial litigation attorney, we encourage you to contact us for an initial consultation. We have decades of experience representing individual and corporate clients in all types of disputes, and we emphasize pursuing alternatives that allow our clients to achieve their goals as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
To learn more, call our Fort Lauderdale law offices at (954) 767-9662 or send us a message online today.