Navigating ADR: The Court-Annexed Arbitration Program

What is Arbitration? Arbitration is a legal process where a neutral person, the arbitrator, hears facts and arguments by two opposing sides and renders a decision.  Nevada has adopted a series of rules, the Rules Governing Alternative Dispute Resolution, that requires certain courts like the Second Judicial District Court, to participate in the Court-Annexed Arbitration Program.  The court administers the arbitration program by appointing an arbitrator to decide certain civil cases.  NAR 1.  The purpose is to provide “a simplified procedure for obtaining a prompt and equitable resolution” of certain civil actions. NAR 2.

Is my civil case subject to arbitration?  Cases with a “probable jury award value” of $50,000 or less per plaintiff are subject to the arbitration program.  NAR 3.  There are certain cases that are not assigned to the arbitration program, such as probate, divorce, title to real estate, class actions, medical malpractice, and declaratory relief actions.  If you can demonstrate that your case has a probable jury award value in excess of $50,000, you may file a timely request with the court to remove your case from the program. NAR 5.  It is the court’s decision whether your case stays in the program or can be removed. Id.

What happens when my case is assigned to arbitration?  If your case is assigned to arbitration, you are given a list of potential arbitrators.  You may strike two names from the list (more, if there are more than one plaintiff and defendant).  NAR 6.  An arbitrator is then appointed, and he will contact the parties to set a date for the Arbitration Hearing. NAR 12.  Arbitration Hearing is where the parties present their facts and legal arguments to the arbitrator in support of their positions.  Your case still proceeds with the discovery process (subject to the arbitrator’s discretion), but on a shortened timeframe.  The arbitrator issues a scheduling order to the parties that may include deadlines to complete any discovery, submit pre-hearing statements to the arbitrator, and appear at the Arbitration Hearing.

Do I get a decision the same day of the Arbitration Hearing?  Perhaps.  Arbitration awards must be in writing and signed by the arbitrator.  Therefore, the arbitrator may issue his or her award that same day in writing after the arbitration hearing.  The arbitrator has seven days after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing to file his award with the court and serve copies on the parties.

What if I don’t like the decision by the arbitrator?  If you do not like the arbitrator’s award, you can request a trial de novo, so long as several requirements are met, such as filing the request within 30 days after service of the award and paying the arbitrator’s bill. See NAR 18.  A trial de novo will likely proceed pursuant to the Nevada Short Trial Rules, which is itself a shortened process designed to expedite civil trials by a shorter discovery process, the use of a smaller jury, and time limits for the presentation of evidence. NSTR 1.  The Second Judicial District Court also administers a short trial program.  If you are the party seeking a trial de novo, there are certain rules and penalties that may apply that require you to obtain a better award from the jury to avoid having to pay the opposing party’s fees and costs. NAR 20.

There are many nuances to the Court-Annexed Arbitration Program and the Nevada Arbitration Rules.  This article is intended only as a general overview and does not provide legal advice on your specific situation.  If you have questions about your case, contact an attorney at Lemons, Grundy & Eisenberg to see if we can be of assistance.