Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an alternative way to resolve disputes. For decades, our justice system has seen an explosion of litigation to the point that courts now struggle to handle all of the lawsuits. The Indiana Supreme Court adopted five forms of ADR to help resolve disputes without a trial.
Summary jury trial: In a summary jury trial, attorneys for each side make an abbreviated presentation of their case to a jury who will render a verdict, which is typically non-binding. The presentations usually last a half or full-day with settlement negotiations following soon thereafter.
Mini-trial: In a mini-trial, each attorney presents a short version of the case with a neutral judge maintaining order. After attorneys present their clients’ cases, the judge conducts a settlement conference to try to settle the case.
Private judge: Using a private judge is typically used when a judge has special expertise in a particular area and/or there are special evidentiary issues involved with a case. Once the parties select the judge, evidence is presented to the judge in an informal manner, with the judge usually rendering a binding decision.
Arbitration: In an arbitration, the dispute is submitted to a panel of three arbitrators for a specific, and usually binding, decision. Each side picks an arbitrator and then the arbitrators pick a neutral third arbitrator. Once a date is set, each side sends briefs to the panel outlining their positions and, thereafter, the arbitration panel will hold a hearing listening to witnesses and arguments by the parties.
Mediation: In mediation, a neutral third party, a mediator, assists both sides to resolve the dispute without prescribing what the actual result should be. The mediator is not a decision maker, but a facilitator whose job is to help each side consider its strengths and weaknesses in order to resolve the case. Both sides provide to the mediator a confidential mediation statement outlining their respective positions. If a settlement is reached, the agreement is reduced to a written document which becomes a binding contract and is enforceable in a court of law.