Is your case appropriate for inclusion into the Court Annexed Arbitration Program?

It is no secret that the cost of taking a civil matter through a jury trial is an expensive endeavor for the parties involved. Often, the amount in controversy in the litigation does not justify spending more in attorney’s fees and costs than the amount a litigant sought to recover.

Although litigating a civil matter through the conclusion of trial can be cost prohibitive to some litigants, over 25 years ago Nevada implemented the Court Annexed Arbitration Program (“CAAP”) in an effort to address the increasing cost of litigation and congestion in the court system.

Cases that are determined to have a probable jury award value not in excess of $50,000.00 are automatically assigned to the CAAP, unless the case is one specifically exempted from the CAAP by the Nevada Arbitration Rules.  Cases involving class actions, appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction, probate actions, divorce and other domestic relations actions, actions seeking judicial review of administrative decisions, actions concerning real title to real estate, actions for declaratory relief, actions involving an incarcerated person, actions involving equitable or extraordinary relief, and actions governed by the provisions of NRS 41A.003 to 41A.069 are automatically exempted from the CAAP.  Likewise, a party can seek removal from the CAAP if the party believes that either: (1) the amount in controversy is greater than the $50,000.00 jurisdictional limit of the CAAP; (2) public policy grounds; or (3) unusual circumstances exist that constitute good cause for removal from the CAAP.

In the event a case is not removed from the CAAP, an arbitrator will be assigned to the case.  Once the arbitrator has been assigned to the case, the parties are required to arbitrate the case within 6 months from the date that the arbitrator was appointed.   The parties may request additional time to complete the arbitration if good cause exists.  The arbitration may not, however, be extended beyond 12 months from the date of the assignment of the arbitrator.

In addition to the shortened time frame in which a matter may be heard, the Nevada Arbitration Rules provide the arbitrator with discretion on the amount of discovery the litigants will be allowed to engage in.  The Nevada Arbitration Rules specifically provide that “[t]he extent to which discovery is allowed, if at all, is in the discretion of the arbitrator, who must make every effort to ensure that the discovery, if any, is neither costly nor burdensome.”  As a result, discovery in arbitration cases is often abbreviated resulting in less expense to the client.

Likewise, the arbitration hearing is also a more streamlined process than a typical civil trial in that the arbitrator has complete discretion over the conduct of the hearing.   As a general rule, arbitration hearings are less formal than a civil trial.  In order to keep costs down, witnesses often appear to testify telephonically.  The cost of experts can also be reduced by allowing them to either testify telephonically or to simply introduce their written reports in lieu of live testimony.

Upon conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator will issue a decision in favor of one of the parties.  Although a prevailing party may seek recovery of attorney’s fees incurred in the prosecution or defense of the case, the Nevada Arbitration Rules limit the amount of attorney’s fees a party can recover to $3,000.  Likewise, the fees an arbitrator may charge for acting as arbitrator under the CAAP are capped at $1,000.

Within 30 days of issuance of the arbitration award, a party who is not satisfied with the award may request a trial de novo and have the matter set for a full jury trial.  In the event  neither party requests a trial de novo within the required time, the prevailing party in the arbitration may submit the arbitration award to the district court for a judgment.

While not all cases are appropriate for inclusion into the CAAP, the CAAP does provide for a cost effective and expeditious manner in which to litigate a case.   If you would like to discuss whether a case is appropriate for inclusion into the CAAP, contact Lemons, Grundy & Eisenberg for more information.