A lawsuit can be lengthy and stressful for both parties involved in a dispute. It can also be very expensive and in many cases, it is a no-win situation. Recognizing this reality, the state of Texas has legislated Alternative Dispute Resolutions.
Alternative Dispute Resolutions will give two parties a venue to settle their dispute without the hassle and cost of full litigation. The basis for Alternative Dispute Resolution is the Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1987. This act has made it public policy to pursue settlement before going to trial.
There are different methods of resolve disputes under the law, as practiced in the district of Southern Texas:
Early Neutral Evaluation
Early Neutral Evaluation involves a private meeting of both parties and their attorneys along with a neutral third party. The attorneys present their positions in the case and the third party gives a non-binding assessment with regards to the merits of both sides.
In most of these meetings, the evaluator is usually in an attorney with expertise in the issue of dispute. The key here is that his evaluation is not binding, and oftentimes, he can also provide advice to both sides on how to proceed with their respective positions. In most early neutral evaluations, a settlement is not reached.
Mediation is an informal, confidential session between both parties. This can be held prior or during the litigation proceeding. There will be a third party mediator agreed upon by both sides. Similar to the evaluator, the mediator can also point out the strengths and weaknesses of both parties. This can be done in front of both parties or even individually. As opposed to early neutral evaluation, the mediator will clearly seek to reach a settlement.
A mini-trial is court-based, and this time, the third party consists of persons with settlement authority. An example of this is a dispute between senior executives in a company with board members as the third party.
As in mediation, both sides and their lawyers will present their cases. A judge or a person of authority will preside over the proceedings. The end goal is to present the case to the decision makers who can then make a decision, as this is still within their jurisdiction.
This method involves an actual jury as both sides present summaries of their cases through their attorneys. It is very much like a trial, but there will not be any witnesses summoned. Instead, the cases will be presented with exhibits of evidence. The jury will reach an advisory verdict. The verdict is not binding in itself, but it could be a starting point for a settlement agreement.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution in Texas is now utilized by more citizens so they can reach settlements faster and in a more amicable manner. It also alleviates the burden of actual courts.