Arbitration

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The submission of a dispute to an unbiased third person designated by the parties to the controversy, who agree in advance to comply with the award?a decision to be issued after a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.

Arbitration is a well-established and widely used means to end disputes. It is one of several kinds of ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION, which provide parties to a controversy with a choice other than litigation. Unlike litigation, arbitration takes place out of court: the two sides select an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator; agree in advance to comply with the arbitrator's award; and then participate in a hearing at which both sides can present evidence and testimony. The arbitrator's decision is usually final, and courts rarely reexamine it.

Traditionally, labor and commerce were the two largest areas of arbitration. However, since the mid-1970s, the technique has seen great expansion. Some states have mandated arbitration for certain disputes such as auto insurance claims, and court decisions have broadened into areas such as SECURITIES, antitrust, and even employment discrimination. International business issues are also frequently resolved using arbitration.

Arbitration in the United States dates to the eighteenth century. Courts frowned on it, though, until attitudes started to change in 1920 with the passage of the first state arbitration law, in New York. This statute served as a model for other state and federal laws, including, in 1925, the U.S. Arbitration Act, later known as the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) (9 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq.). The FAA was intended to give arbitration equal status with litigation, and, in effect, created a body of federal law. After WORLD WAR II, arbitration grew increasingly important to labor-management relations. Congress helped this growth with passage of the TAFT-HARTLEY ACT (29 U.S.C.A. § 141 et seq.) in 1947, and over the next decade, the U.S. Supreme Court firmly cemented arbitration as the favored means for resolving labor issues, by limiting the judiciary's role. In the 1970s, arbitration began expanding into a wide range of issues that eventually included PRISONERS' RIGHTS, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE, and consumer rights. In 2003, all 50 states had modern arbitration statutes.

Arbitration can be voluntary or required. The traditional model is voluntary, and closely linked to contract law: parties often stipulate in contracts that they will arbitrate, rather than litigate, when disputes arise. For example, unions and employers almost always put an arbitration clause in their formal negotiations, known as collective bargaining agreements. By doing so, they agree to arbitrate any future employee grievances over wages, hours, working conditions, or job security?in essence, they agree not to sue if disagreements occur. Similarly, a purchaser and a provider of services who disagree over the result of a business deal may submit the problem to an arbitrator instead of a court. Mandatory arbitration is a more recent phenomenon. States such as Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey have enacted statutes that force disputes over automobile insurance claims into this...

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