Oregon Arbitration – How it Works
Cases filed for less than $50,000.00 are subject to mandatory arbitration in most Oregon Counties, including Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties. The main advantages of arbitration are reduced costs and faster resolution.
What is an arbitrator? An arbitrator is a neutral and independent attorney. In most counties, after a case is filed, the court sends all parties a list of potential arbitrators. The parties then have the option of agreeing to an arbitrator on or off the list. If an arbitrator cannot be mutually agreed upon, each side eliminates two unwanted arbitrators from the list. The list of remaining potential arbitrators is then sent back to the court. The court then randomly chooses an arbitrator from the list of remaining potential arbitrators. Our goal when selecting an arbitrator is to select one with experience in the relevant legal areas and who is well-versed in jury verdict values and settlement values for the case being arbitrated.
Where are arbitrations held? Arbitrations are usually held in a conference room of the arbitrator, in a courthouse conference room or in the conference room of one of the attorney’s on the case. A conference room at Clark Law and Associates, LLC on the ground floor of 6501 SW Macadam avenue is available by reservation. The location of the arbitration is generally determined by conference room availability and overall convenience for all persons attending the arbitration.
Are the rules of evidence at arbitration different than trial? Yes. The rules of evidence in arbitrations are more relaxed, meaning it is easier to admit evidence for the arbitrator to consider. For instance, custodian of records and expert witnesses are not needed to be summoned to arbitration hearings to authenticate documents such as medical records where they need to be summoned for bench and jury trials. Expert reports are often admissible even if the expert does not testify at arbitration, something that would be disallowed as hearsay at trial. Finally, even if it is necessary for an expert witness to appear and testify at an arbitration hearing, the cost of testimony is usually less than the cost of testimony at a trial because an expert witness must set aside less time to testify at arbitration than trial. Arbitrations are usually far less expensive than jury or bench trials.
Why arbitrate a case? Why not have a jury trial? The main reason to arbitrate a case is that arbitration is less expensive than a jury trial. Trials cost more money due to the cost of live expert witness testimony. Many doctors charge $3,000.00 to $10,000.00 to testify, while charging only $500.00 to $1,500.00 for a medical opinion letter. Even if an expert testifies at arbitration, they often charge less because the timing of their testimony is easier to predict and the expert must set aside less time from their day to testify. Jury trials require that all medical records be authenticated by the custodians of records. This often means that voluminous subpoena fees must be incurred, if the opposing counsel will not stipulate or otherwise admit that the records are authentic. At arbitration, these documents are automatically admitted into evidence without all of the expense. There are arbitrator fees paid to the arbitrator instead of jury trial fees paid to the court. The cost paid to the arbitrator is at a minimum, $500.00. There are other costs associated with arbitrations besides the hearing itself, such as depositions and records fees. These same costs are associated with trials.
If I don't like the arbitration result in Oregon, how long do I have to appeal? If I like my arbitration result, how long does the other side have to appeal? Either party has 20 days to appeal once the judgment is entered. see UTCR 13.250 (2)(b) and ORS 36.425 (2)(a).
Is there any risk in appealing an arbitration award? Yes. If the he position of the appealing party is not improved after trial, the appealing party shall be taxed the reasonable attorney fees, costs and disbursements of the non-appealing party. ORS 36.425(4)(b).