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Flat-rate, speedy rulings save time and money

June 17th, 2009

financial-post-logo1ADR Chambers Inc. has launched a new, flate-rate package for companies looking for a fast resolution to a business dispute.

For $6,000, companies or individuals who agree to an undergo an expedited arbitration can get their disputes heard and ruled on by former judges or senior lawyers within a 2.5-month time frame, explains Allan Stitt, president of ADR, a Toronto alternative dispute resolution company. That’s much faster than the traditional court system and a lot cheaper.

Mr. Stitt, a lawyer, says the cost of litigating disputes has skyrocketed. “You end up going to court paying such a significant percentage of what you’re arguing about. For the whole amount, it doesn’t make sense.”

He says the flat-rate arbitration is a “very abbreviated process and not something anyone can force on anyone else.”

Parties agree to follow strict rules on the length of materials they file and time frames, he says. There is no discretion for the arbitrators to agree to time extensions.

The parties are responsible for paying their own lawyers to represent them, Mr. Stitt adds, so the fee covers the arbitrator’s time and the use of facilities.

The participants submit a written brief and present their case at an oral hearing and the arbitrator provides reasons. There’s no formal appeal, though parties can turn to the court if there’s a denial of natural justice, which is standard in arbitrations.

Mr. Stitt says the process is best for disputes between $150,000 and $250,000, where legal fees can eat up the bulk of any award a court grants and it can take years to resolve.

Currently there is one dispute being heard since the service was launched last month and Mr. Stitt expects that it will be popular among companies that conduct business together, but which have a disagreement on the interpretation of a phrase in an existing contract and don’t want the matter to ruin their relationship by going to court.

Before launching the program, Mr. Stitt says he spoke to lawyers and judges and said he received “very positive opinions” about the need for such a service.

“I actually believe this will be the future of arbitration and gain momentum over the next few years.”

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