Arbitration Nation is seven years old, and has 330 posts under its belt (and no seven year itch).  Hip hip hooray!  One of those posts is a perennial favorite, coming up over and over in search results: When Should You Choose JAMS, AAA or CPR Rules?  Because that comparison is five years old, we give you an update.  Here is a chart comparing the three sets of commercial rules on important topics.  Fair warning: the rules are very similar.  So, we added an asterisk in the first column to indicate an issue where there is some difference among the administrators.

Comparison of Popular Arbitration Rules in U.S.

Rule/Topic

Commercial Arbitration Rules – AAA

(Oct. 1, 2013)

JAMS Comprehensive Rules & Procedures

(July 1, 2014)

CPR Administered Arbitration Rules (July 1, 2013)
Filing Fee for $1,000,000 Claim * $8,475 For a two-party matter: $1,500 initial filing fee paid by the party initiating the arbitration and $1,500 for counterclaims. For matters involving three or more parties: $2,000. After that, a case management fee of 12% is assessed against all professional fees charged by arbitrator(s).

Non-refundable filing fee: $1,750

Admin Fee: $7,250

Deadline for Filing Answer/Response to Claim Within fourteen days after respondent receives notice of claim. Within fourteen days after respondent receives notice of claim. Within twenty days after the Respondent receives notice of claim from CPR.
Time to Hearing * None specified None specified The dispute should in most circumstances be submitted to the tribunal within six months after the initial pre-conference.

Number of Arbitrators *

(if not specified in arbitration agreement or agreed upon by parties)

If claim or counterclaim is under $1,000,000, the dispute will be heard by one arbitrator. If it is above that, then three arbitrators shall determine the case. The dispute will be heard by one arbitrator. The dispute will be heard by three arbitrators.
Mediation “Required” * In all cases where a claim or counterclaim exceeds $75,000, during the time that the arbitration is pending, the parties shall mediate their dispute, unless one or both parties opts out.

Not required; however, the Parties may agree, at any stage of the Arbitration process, to submit the case to JAMS for mediation.

 

Not required, however, the arbitrator may request CPR to arrange for mediation by a mediator acceptable to the parties.
Modification of Rules Parties may modify rules or procedures by written agreement. However, after appointing an arbitrator, such modifications require the consent of the arbitrator. Parties may modify rules as long as modification is legal and consistent with JAMS policies. Parties must notify JAMS and shall confirm the modifications in writing. Modifications are allowed; however, the parties must agree in writing to such modifications during the course of the arbitral proceeding.

 

 

Authority to Determine Jurisdiction

The arbitrator has the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement or to the arbitrability of any claim or counterclaim. The arbitrator has the authority to determine jurisdiction and arbitrability issues, including the existence, scope, and validity of an arbitration agreement, as a preliminary matter. The tribunal has the power to hear and determine challenges to its jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope or validity of the arbitration agreement.
Discovery * For cases of all sizes, the arbitrator manages the exchange of information “with a view to achieving an efficient and economic resolution of the dispute, while … safeguarding each party’s opportunity to fairly present its claims and defenses.” Cases with claims under $1,000,000 contemplate just document exchange, while those with claims exceeding $1,000,000 clarify that the arbitrator has discretion to order depositions “upon good cause shown.” For cases of all size, the parties are expected to exchange all relevant ESI and documents within 21 days after pleadings are filed.   In addition, each party may take one deposition of an opposing party. Empowers the tribunal to facilitate “such discovery as it shall determine is appropriate,” but must take into account the needs of the party and the desirability of making discovery efficient and cost effective.
Dispositive Motions The moving party must show that the motion is likely to succeed and dispose of or narrow the issues in the case. The arbitrator may permit summary disposition of a particular claim or issue, either by agreement of all interested parties or at the request of one party, provided such other interested parties are given reasonable notice to respond.

There is no specific rule regarding summary disposition.

However, the CPR has provided guidelines outlining principles & procedures that note dispositive motions are appropriate when a requesting party can demonstrate that early disposition of any factual or legal issue may be accomplished efficiently and fairly, or when all parties agree that early disposition of a particular issue would be desirable.

Emergency Relief and

Interim Protection

Before an arbitrator is appointed, a party may seek emergency relief and an emergency arbitrator will be appointed within one business day, and a schedule established within two business days.

The (regular) arbitrator may take whatever interim measures he or she deems necessary for the protection or conservation of property.

Before an arbitrator is appointed, a party can seek emergency relief and an Emergency Arbitrator will be appointed within 24 hours, and a schedule established within two days.

The (regular) arbitrator may grant whatever interim measures are deemed necessary, including injunctive relief and measures for the protection or conservation of property.

Before the tribunal is constituted, any party can request that an interim/emergency measure of protection be granted by a special arbitrator. The arbitrator will be appointed within one business day and shall conduct the proceedings “as expeditiously as possible.”

The (regular) panel may take any interim measures as the tribunal deems necessary to preserve assets or property.

 

Default Award Does not allow the arbitrator to render an award solely on the basis of default or absence of a party. Does not allow the arbitrator to render an award solely on the basis of default or absence of a party. The arbitration will proceed even if the Respondent fails to file a timely notice of defense. The tribunal is empowered to make an award on default; however, such award may only be made after the production of evidence and supporting legal arguments by the non-defaulting party.
Confidentiality * None JAMS and the Arbitrator are required to maintain the confidential nature of the Arbitration proceeding and the award, including the hearing, unless disclosure is necessary e.g. in connection with a judicial challenge or otherwise required by law. Unless otherwise agreed, the parties and the arbitrators shall treat the proceedings and related discovery as confidential, unless disclosure is necessary i.e. a judicial challenge or if required by law or to protect the legal right of a party.
Authority to Grant Relief

The arbitrator may grant any remedy or relief that the arbitrator deems just and equitable, and within the specific scope of the agreement of parties (e.g. specific performance of a contract).

The arbitrator may apportion the arbitration fees and expenses among the parties, and may award attorneys’ fees if all parties requested such an award or it is authorized by the arbitration agreement or law.

In determining the relief to be granted, the arbitrator should be guided by the rules of law agreed upon by the parties and the rules of law and equity that he or she deems most appropriate.

The arbitrator may allocate arbitration fees and arbitrator compensation, unless the parties’ agreement precludes that. The arbitrator also may award attorneys’ fees if provided by the parties’ agreement or applicable law.

The Tribunal may grant any remedy or relief, including but not limited to specific performance of a contract, which is within the scope of the agreement of the parties and permissible under the law(s) or rules of law applicable to the dispute.

Unless the parties’ agreement precludes it, the Tribunal may also allocate the costs of arbitration, including attorneys’ fees, in such manner as it deems reasonable.

Award Deadline Thirty days after the end of hearings, or if hearings are waived thirty days after arbitrator receives all of materials by the parties. Thirty days after the end of hearings, or if hearings are waived thirty days after arbitrator receives all of materials by the parties. Thirty days after the end of hearings; however, as long as the tribunal must only use “best efforts” to comply with this requirement.

Arbitration Nation thanks Haaris Pasha, a law student at the University of Minnesota, for contributing to this post.

Class action arbitration continues to be a hot topic among the federal appellate courts this summer.

The 8th Circuit followed the lead of other circuit courts, finding that courts, not arbitrators, presumptively decide whether the parties’ arbitration agreement allows for class arbitration. Catamaran Corporation v. Towncrest Pharmacy, 2017 WL 3197622 (July 28, 2017).   In support of its decision, the court raised concerns about class arbitration, including loss of confidentiality, due process concerns for absent parties, and a concern about the lack of appellate review.  [Interesting that it didn’t cite any of CFPB’s report on this, but just cited other case law… ] Therefore, unless the parties have “clearly and unmistakably delegated” the class arbitration issue to the arbitrator, a court will decide the issue.  Furthermore, the court said that incorporating the AAA rules is not a clear and unmistakable delegation of the class arbitration decision, even though citing the AAA rules is sufficiently clear in analogous issues in regular “bilateral arbitration.”  The court remanded to the district court to determine whether there was a contractual basis for class arbitration.

Halfway across the country, the 9th Circuit held that employees could bring their claims related to a data breach as a class action in arbitration.  Varela v. Lamps Plus, Inc., 2017 WL 3309944 (Aug. 3, 2017).  The employees had first brought their class claims to federal court, and the employer moved to compel individual arbitration.  The district court found the arbitration agreement was valid, but ambiguous about whether class actions were waived.  Construing that ambiguity against the employer who drafted the agreement, the district court ordered class arbitration.  On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the finding of ambiguity, sending the class to arbitration as a group.  One judge issued a two sentence dissent, noting “we should not allow Varela to enlist us in this palpable evasion of Stolt-Nielsen

Three state supreme courts tackled arbitration law in recent weeks: Alabama, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.  Rhode Island reversed a construction arbitration award because it disagreed with the arbitrator’s analysis.  North Carolina found that an arbitration agreement in a doctor-patient setting was unenforceable as a breach of the doctor’s fiduciary duty.  And Alabama strictly enforced an arbitral venue, even though that precluded class action.

Continuing its streak of hewing closely to the lead of federal courts on arbitration, the Supreme Court of Alabama held that plaintiffs have to arbitrate with the Better Business Bureau, even though the BBB does not conduct class action arbitration proceedings.  University Toyota & University Chevrolet Buick GMC v. Hardeman, _ So. 3d __, 2017 WL 382651 (Ala. Jan. 27, 2017).  The plaintiffs were a putative class of customers harmed by two car dealerships’ decision to stop honoring their earlier agreement to provide free oil changes.  The arbitration clause between the dealerships and purchasers called for arbitration of all disputes pursuant to the FAA, and said “either party may demand arbitration by filing with the Better Business Bureau.”  When the plaintiffs filed their demand, the BBB responded that it did not conduct class arbitrations.    The plaintiffs then withdrew their demand and filed in court, asking either to keep their fight in court or go to a forum that allowed class arbitration.  The trial court sent the plaintiffs to the AAA to decide whether class actions were available.  On appeal, the supreme court reversed in a 7-1 decision.  The majority quoted heavily from SCOTUS decisions stating that arbitration agreements should be enforced according to their terms, and found that the BBB forum was an integral part of the arbitration agreement that must be given effect.  The lone dissenter argued that, because the availability of class arbitration was for the arbitrator, it should be decided by a forum that at least retains that option.

Without any consideration of the Federal Arbitration Act, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island vacated an arbitration award.  Nappa Construction Management, LLC v. Flynn, __ A.3d __, 2017 WL 281812 (R.I. Jan. 23, 2017). (Maybe an allergy to the FAA is contagious… remember nearby New Hampshire last year?)  In a dispute between the owners of a automobile repair facility and the construction company that was hired to build it, the arbitrator issued an award that analyzed the parties’ contract and found the construction company was owed money.  The trial court refused to vacate the award, finding the arbitrator grounded his analysis in the contract and did not manifestly disregard the law.  On appeal, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island cited only cases from its own court, including labor cases, and found that the arbitrator had exceeded his authority (and the award failed to draw its essence from the agreement) by finding that the owners had effectively terminated the contract, when there was no evidence that the owners actually terminated the contract.  The court also accused the award of reaching an “irrational result.”  Two justices dissented, noting the “exceptionally deferential standard of review” for arbitration awards.  They did not, however, cite to the line from Sutter, as I would have, that even “grave error” by an arbitrator is not sufficient to vacate an award if the arbitrator in fact analyzed the contract.  (Maybe no one argued the FAA applied?  A commercial construction contract would almost certainly involve interstate commerce…)

Finally, the Supreme Court of North Carolina refused to enforce the arbitration agreement between a doctor and patient, finding that the agreement “was obtained as a result of defendants’ breach of fiduciary duty that they owed to” the patient.  King v. Bryant, __ S.E.2d __, 2017 WL 382910 (N.C. Jan. 27, 2017).  The patient had brought a medical malpractice action against his surgeon, and the surgeon tried to enforce the arbitration agreement between them.  The arbitration agreement called for application of the FAA and arbitration under health care procedures of the AAA.

The N.C. trial court refused to compel arbitration, finding the agreement was only an “agreement to agree,” and started off a crazy game of appeals court-district court ping pong involving this case.  The court of appeals reversed and remanded.  On second thought, the trial court refused to enforce the agreement because the surgeon had a fiduciary duty to disclose the arbitration agreement to his patient as a material term, and because he did not it was unenforceable.  The court of appeals affirmed, noting the application of the FAA, but finding the agreement unconscionable.  The supreme court then remanded to the trial court for further findings of fact regarding the existence of a physician-patient relationship when the agreement was signed, and the trial court complied.  Finally, the case returned to the supreme court, which held that the doctor owed a fiduciary duty to the patient and breached it “by failing to make full disclosure of the nature and import of the arbitration agreement to him at or before the time that it was presented for his signature.”  Recognizing the possibility of an argument that its holding is preempted by the FAA, the court noted “we would have reached the same result on these facts with respect to any agreement that substantially affected [the patient’s] substantive legal rights.”  However, the opinion cites no N.C. cases to support that statement, which may be fatal under the DirecTV analysis.  Two justices wrote separate dissents, based largely on FAA preemption.  (“This jiggery-pokery is precisely the type of impermissble ‘rationalization’ admonished by the United States Supreme Court. Such a tortured attempt to obviate the FAA fails.”)

What is the take away here?  It is that there is still a huge amount of variation in how a given arbitration dispute will be handled, depending on what court hears the dispute.  And the preemption rules set out in Concepcion and DirecTV are either not well understood, or are being intentionally avoided.

A per curiam opinion from the 8th Circuit last week highlights that even if an arbitration goes off the rails, the only remedy is vacating (or confirming) the award.  The parties cannot recover from the administrator of the arbitration.

In Owens v. American Arbitration Association, Inc., 2016 WL 6818858 (8th Cir. Nov. 18, 2016), a terminated CEO filed for arbitration against his former company.  The AAA administrated the arbitration and a three member panel was chosen.  One of the arbitrators disclosed that he had been consulted in a different matter handled by the same firms that were representing the CEO and the company.  No party objected to that arbitrator’s continued involvement or asked follow up questions.

The panel issued an initial award of over $3 million to the former CEO.  At that point, the company moved to remove the arbitrator who had made the disclosure, alleging the disclosure was incomplete.  The AAA did not have a rule or published procedure for addressing the removal of an arbitrator.  It allowed the CEO to respond, but did not inform any of the arbitrators that a motion had been made or allow the arbitrator whose disclosure was at issue to respond.  The AAA eventually removed the arbitrator who made the disclosure, and the remaining two arbitrators issued a final award in favor of the CEO.

The company moved to vacate the award, and a state court trial judge granted the motion.  At that point, the CEO sued the AAA in Minnesota state court for “breach of contract, unjust enrichment, [and] tortious interference with contract.”  The AAA removed the case to federal court, and the federal district court dismissed the claims based on arbitral immunity.

On appeal, the 8th Circuit made quick work of this messy case.  It first recognized that arbitrators, like judges, have immunity.  And, that immunity can extend to “organizations that sponsor arbitrations” and all of the acts within the arbitral process.  Second, it cited a previous case in which the 8th Circuit concluded that “arbitral immunity bars claims against a sponsoring organization based on the appointment of a biased arbitrator.”  (Even if the organization failed to follow its own rules in appointing the arbitrator.)  Third, it extended that rule, concluding that the removal of arbitrators is also protected by arbitral immunity.

p.s. In honor of the all-Minnesota nature of this case, I give you a photo I took of the prize-winning giant pumpkins at the Minnesota State Fair.  Happy Thanksgiving!

The American Arbitration Association (AAA) has not released statistics for years (other than to the CFPB). But recently, arbitration geeks got a summer solstice gift of (limited) new information. The piece is only three pages, short enough to read during a commercial break, but here are some key numbers to know:

  • In 2015, 8,360 new business-to-business (B2B) arbitrations were filed. That figure includes commercial cases, construction, and executive employment disputes;
  • The claims and counterclaims made in those B2B arbitrations in 2015 totaled over $16 billion;
  • As a point of comparison, there were 25,024 private contract disputes filed in all the federal courts in the U.S. in the year ending March 2015;
  • The industries with the fastest increasing arbitration caseloads are transportation, commercial insurance, entertainment/media, and pharma/biotech; and
  • 56% of the B2B cases in 2015 were resolved prior to award.

What I take away from this is that there is still a significant percentage of business disputes being resolved in arbitration, and more of them get all the way to an award than is true in court litigation.

Today’s post is a good one for all those defendants/ respondents who are convinced that they have a slam-dunk case and want to recover their attorneys’ fees.  Because while these particular respondents were not successful, they paved a path that may lead others to collect attorneys’ fees after defeating claims in arbitration.

The case involved an owner’s negligence claims against an architect arising out of a condominium project.  WPH Architecture, Inc. v. Vegas VP, __ P.3d __, 2015 WL 6750051 (Nev. Nov. 5, 2015).  “Prior to arbitration”, the architect made offers of judgment under Nevada’s Rule 68 (and a related statute).  That rule allows a defendant to offer to accept judgment against it in a certain amount, and provides that if the plaintiff does not “obtain a more favorable judgment,” the plaintiff “shall pay” the defendant’s costs, interest, “and reasonable attorney’s fees, if any be allowed” from the date of the offer.   (An appropriate betting mechanism for litigation over this Las Vegas condo project…)  The owner rejected the offers and then lost at arbitration.  However, when the architect filed a motion to recover its costs, fees, and interest under Rule 68, the arbitrators denied the motion, noting that there was no express authority finding offers of judgment are available in arbitration.

The architect then asked the courts to modify the arbitration award to include its attorneys’ fees, costs and interest, arguing that the arbitrators had “manifestly disregarded the law” in refusing to follow Rule 68 and Nev. Statute 17.115.  The court went through the following analysis:

  • The parties’ contract called for the AAA’s Construction Arbitration Rules to govern the arbitration, but Nevada law to govern the contract.  Applying Mastrobuono, the court held “that the arbitration was substantively governed by Nevada law and procedurally governed by the AAA rules.”
  • The court held that Rule 68 and the similar Nevada statutes “are substantive laws that apply to the arbitration proceedings in the current case.”
  • However, because those rules and statutes do not reference arbitration or arbitrators, they “do not require an arbitrator to award attorney fees or costs.”  (The court noted that California’s offer of judgment statutes explicitly applies to court and arbitration proceedings.)  “Furthermore, no Nevada caselaw exists holding that those statutes apply to arbitration proceedings.”
  • Therefore, because the rules and statutes did not explicitly apply to arbitration, and no case law had reached that issue, the architect “failed to demonstrate that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded Nevada law.”

Going forward, of course, the analysis will be different.  Thanks to this case, there now is binding case law in Nevada that Rule 68 is a substantive law that applies in arbitration.  This gives anyone whose contract is governed by Nevada law new potential leverage in defending against arbitrable claims.  If you make an early offer of judgment on a winning claim, you have the ability to later tax your costs and interest against your opponent (and a statutory basis to seek fees).  Because many states have a similar offer of judgment statute, and the analysis that the rule is substantive is based on federal cases, this same analysis should be available in many jurisdictions.

Let’s say your arbitration agreement calls for arbitration administered by JAMS under JAMS rules, but the arbitrator is independent and applies AAA rules, over one party’s objection.  A new decision from the Fifth Circuit says that is enough to vacate the resulting award.

In Poolre Insurance Corp. v. Organizational Strategies, Inc., __ F.3d__, 2015 WL 1566633 (5th Cir. April 7, 2015), there was a dispute between a self-insured company, the consultants that set up its insurance program (Capstone), and its reinsurer.  The arbitration agreement between the company and Capstone called for arbitration under the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the AAA, with venue in Delaware.  The arbitration agreement between the company and the reinsurer, on the other hand, called for arbitration by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), in Anguilla, with the arbitrator chosen by “the Anguilla [] Director of Insurance.” (Anguilla is in the British West Indies.  Why don’t I ever get to arbitrate somewhere exotic?  Maybe that’s the reward for being a reinsurance lawyer…)

Capstone started arbitration with the company at “Conflict Resolution Systems, PLLC” (CRS) in Houston, and Dion Ramos was named the arbitrator.  When the reinsurer inquired whether the Anguilla Director of Insurance could select the arbitrator, as required in the reinsurance contract, an Anguillan official explained that “no such official existed.”  (Sounds reminiscent of these cases...)  However, the Anguillan official designated CRS to select an independent arbitrator and administer the proceedings.  The company objected to the arbitrator’s authority, and the reinsurer intervened to request an arbitrator based in Anguilla.  Ramos found he had jurisdiction over all parties, and found the reinsurer waived its right to arbitrate in Anguilla by intervening.  The company continued to object, arguing that the arbitrator did not have the power to apply AAA rules to the reinsurance dispute.

Ramos found the reinsurer was properly joined in the arbitration.  On the merits, Ramos found the company breached its contracts with Capstone and the reinsurer and granted attorneys’ fees and expenses to Capstone and the reinsurer of about a half a million dollars.  Ramos denied all the company’s claims.

The reinsurer and Capstone moved to confirm the award and the company moved to vacate.  The Texas district court found Ramos exceeded his authority by exercising jurisdiction over the reinsurer and applying AAA rules to the reinsurance dispute. Because the inclusion of the reinsurer “tainted the entire process,” the district court vacated the award.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to vacate the award.  The court noted that arbitration awards may be vacated when arbitrators “exceed[] the express limitations” of the contractual mandate, or act contrary to express contractual provisions.  Here, the Fifth Circuit found two separate bases for vacating the award.  First, the arbitrator-selection mechanism in the reinsurance contracts was not followed.  (In a footnote, the court acknowledged that the selection mechanism provided in the contract was not actually available, since there was no official with that title, but that the parties could have come to the court under Section 5 of the FAA and asked the court to appoint an arbitrator.)  Second, Ramos “acted contrary” to the requirement that the reinsurance disputes be arbitrated by the ICC under ICC rules.  The court found that was a “forum selection clause integral to the agreement” and therefore the arbitrator exceeded his power by applying AAA rules.  (Interestingly, the Fifth Circuit did not analyze the third basis that the district court used to support vacatur: the arbitrator’s decision to join all the parties to a single arbitration, although the company had not consented to consolidation.)

What are the lessons here for parties?  Here are at least two.  First, do not try to consolidate arbitrations that call for different administrators or different rules unless all parties agree.  And second, if you are going to specify an unusual arbitrator-selection process, make sure to put a “Plan B” in the contract.

Two other bits of arbitration news:

First, SCOTUS denied cert in one of the cases that refused to enforce an arbitration clause calling for arbitration before a Native American tribe.

Second, Delaware’s Rapid Arbitration Act officially became a law on April 3 and will go into effect in May.  Will Delaware businesses see the promise of speedy dispute resolution (max resolution time is 180 days by law) as enough of a benefit to give it a try? We may never know, as the process will be confidential…

In a short and sweet opinion issued just six weeks after argument, the Eighth Circuit yesterday held that an arbitrator was authorized to decide whether a non-signatory was able to arbitrate a dispute.  Eckert/Wordell Architects, Inc. v. FJM Props. of Willmar, LLC, __ F.3d __, 2014 WL 2922343 (8th Cir. June 30, 2014).

The dispute was over the design and construction of a laser eye clinic in Minnesota.  The contract containing the arbitration agreement was between the architects and Fischer Laser Eye Center, the owner of the property where the clinic would be.  The shareholders of Fischer later formed a separate company to own and develop the land for the clinic, and that second company then changed its name to FJM Properties.  When it discovered problems with ventilation, FJM Properties demanded arbitration with the architects.  That arbitration proceeding went on for more than a year.  Just a month before the evidentiary hearing, the architects objected to participating further, based on their assertion that they had no arbitration agreement with FJM Properties.  The arbitrator found he had power to determine whether the parties had an arbitration agreement and invited briefing.

The architects went to federal district court and asked the judge to stop the arbitration.  But the court agreed that the arbitrator had the power to decide whether FJM could enforce the arbitration agreement between Fischer and the architects.  In a single paragraph of analysis, the Eighth Circuit affirmed.  It reminds us that “threshold questions of arbitrability are for a court to decide, unless there is clear and unmistakable evidence the parties intended to commit questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator.”  In this case, the parties’ incorporation of the AAA’s Construction Industry Arbitration Rules (which allow arbitrators to rule on their own jurisdiction) served as “a clear and unmistakable indication the parties intended for the arbitrator to decide threshold questions of arbitrability.”  Reading between the lines, the fact that the architects drafted the contract and then tried to design an escape hatch from arbitration after the proceeding was nearly concluded did not help their cause.

 

Albert Einstein supposedly once said “you have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” In arbitration, that means figuring out which organizations’ rules are best suited for your arbitration clause. This post is designed to help drafters make that decision by giving a quick and dirty overview of the similarities and differences between the administered rules for commercial disputes at the three most common arbitration providers: AAA, JAMS, and CPR.

Generally speaking, the rules of the three organizations are very similar. That said, attorneys and clients should consider the following:

  • FEES:  In addition to hourly arbitrator rates, all three organizations have some kind of administrative/filing fee.  JAMS charges this administrative fee as a function of the arbitrator’s time and thus may be the most cost-effective for short arbitrations. On the other hand, AAA and CPR charge on claim value.  Between those two organizations, AAA is more cost-effective for claims under $5,000,000, while CPR becomes cheaper for claims above that figure.
  • DEFAULT AWARD: JAMS and AAA do not allow arbitrators to render an award solely on the basis of default or absence of a party. CPR, on the other hand, does provide for a default award.  However, all three organizations require an arbitrator to consider substantive evidence before ruling against an absent party.
  • DISCOVERY: JAMS has a detailed set of Expedited Procedures parties can adopt that limit discovery (for example, to one deposition per party) and preclude dispositive motions.  The AAA also allows parties to adopt its Expedited Procedures (those procedures apply automatically to disputes under $75,000), but the procedures do not expressly limit discovery and instead generally adopt shorter timelines for the arbitration.  If speed and efficiency of arbitration is your number one goal, the Expedited Procedure under JAMS are a great choice. On the other hand, for parties anticipating a more complex dispute, or needing more flexibility in discovery, the general commercial rules of these organizations all allow the arbitrator(s) to tailor the discovery to the needs of the case.
  • ARBITRATORS: The three organizations all have similar, and complicated, methods for selecting arbitrations if (okay, when) the parties cannot agree on their own.  The number of available arbitrators varies, though.  Our best research indicates there are over 3,600 on the AAA roster, 500-600 on the CPR roster, and approximately 150-300 on the JAMS roster.
  • AWARD DEADLINES: JAMS and AAA explicitly require 30 days’ time in which arbitrators must render a final award. However, the CPR’s 30-day requirement is more of a “best efforts” suggestion than a hard and fast rule.  Thus, parties looking to get to the final award as quickly as possible may want to choose JAMS or AAA.
  • MOTION PRACTICE: AAA and CPR do not explicitly provide for summary disposition, but the JAMS Comprehensive Arbitration rules do (the Comprehensive rules are for claims over $250,000. JAMS has a Streamlined set of rules for claims under $250,000).  Thus, drafting parties who want to ensure the possibility of summary disposition are better off looking to JAMS’ Comprehensive rules.

Of course, there are many more rules for each organization and other important issues to consider.  However, this list should give drafters a good starting point for analyzing which arbitral forum (and specific rules in that forum) are best for their arbitration agreement.

**ArbitrationNation thanks Max Corey, a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, for his work on this post.

By Liz Kramer and Patrick Burns (http://www.valuesolveadr.org/patrick.html ), Guest Blogger

If an arbitration agreement calls for the dispute to be administered by an ADR provider that will not or cannot accept the case, or calls for the application of non-existent rules, it may not be enforceable.  That issue seems to be increasingly prevalent in consumer arbitrations today, which frequently call for the application of rules or arbitral fora that are unavailable. 

Consumer arbitration in the United States changed drastically in 2009.  In July of that year, the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) was essentially put out of the consumer arbitration business by the Minnesota State Attorney General’s Office.  Soon thereafter, the American Arbitration Association (AAA) ceased administering almost all consumer cases.  

Yet the resulting void of administrated consumer arbitration programs did not change the fact that many existing contracts still called for arbitration via those primary providers’ programs.  Nor does it appear to have stopped businesses from naming those same two ADR administrators in their subsequently-revised contracts.

The result is that after a dispute arises, both consumers and businesses are faced with an arbitration provision that calls for something impossible –arbitration administered by an ADR provider that refuses to accept the dispute or under rules that do not exist.  If the parties cannot agree to proceed in a replacement forum or under replacement rules, they must decide whether to roll the dice with the courts.  The trend among courts to date appears to be that they will not compel arbitration (under any rules or in any forum) if the arbitration agreement calls for arbitration before an administrator that refuses to hear the dispute. 

For example, a Pennsylvania state court recently refused to enforce an arbitration agreement between orthopedists and their patients when it called for non-existing rules.  The agreement in question called for the application of “‘Health Care Claims Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association,” yet there are no rules with that title from the AAA.  In fact, the only health care rules available from the AAA do not govern disputes between doctors and patients.  The AAA’s health care rules only apply to “business-to-business” disputes (such as reimbursement disputes between health care providers and insurance payors).  The orthopedists argued that the agreement to arbitrate should still be enforced, just in another forum and under different rules, but the court found that the specific rules and forum were essential terms of the agreement.  Because those essential terms failed, the arbitration agreement was not enforceable.  (The decision is not reported; its title is Luderer v. Nazarian, and it was issued on Sept. 12 by the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.)

 Similarly, in February of this year, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that the selection of the NAF in a consumer contract was “integral to the parties’ agreement to arbitrate,” such that when the NAF stopped conducting consumer arbitrations, the arbitration agreement was unenforceable.  Carr v. Gateway, Inc., 944 N.E.2d 327 (Ill. 2011).  However, the authors are aware of a Minnesota state court judge who resolved this problem by ordering the parties to select a new forum for arbitration when the one specified in the arbitration agreement was no longer available.   

 ENDNOTE: