Deborah L. Ross
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Increasingly in today’s world, parties are looking for alternative ways to resolve disputes. They seek new methods which allow them to avoid protracted and expensive court proceedings; methods which provide finality and an opportunity to move ahead without the restraints associated with litigation. Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) is the term often used to reference any of a number of these ways through which parties can settle disputes without the necessity of a court setting. Some of the most commonly known forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Most importantly, ADR has gained increasing acceptance within the judicial/legal community and the private sector as truly effective and cost-efficient approaches to dispute resolution. Mediation is one of the most popular ADR methods. In fact, most civil actions filed in Florida are required to be mediated prior to trial. With their legal counsel, the parties involved in mediation will meet with a mediator – an experienced and trained “neutral” – who will help guide discussions about how to resolve a dispute. These mediation discussions are confidential and designed to provide an open forum to discuss all aspects of the dispute, all of the potential outcomes and to facilitate a risk analysis by each party. The most important aspect of mediation is self-determination. That means the parties themselves are the authors of any settlement. The mediator is neutral and does not decide any aspect of the matter. Rather, the mediator employs dispute resolution skills to encourage all parties to critically evaluate the problems raised and determine possible outcomes or resolutions. Settlements achieved in mediation have the virtue of being the decision of the parties themselves, rather than third parties (like a Judge or Jury). Arbitration is another popular ADR method. It differs from mediation in that an arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators) actually is empowered by the disputing parties themselves to render a decision which resolves the dispute. Arbitration is prized for its finality. Once an arbitration decision is rendered, there is no further appeal except in very narrow circumstances. Arbitration decisions are fully enforceable by the court system as well. Given that arbitration can be conducted informally, it is considered a much less expensive and quicker method to resolve a dispute than resort to the court system. Ross Earle Bonan & Ensor, P.A. includes a mediation and arbitration practice in order to meet the increasing need for ADR services. One of the firm’s founding shareholders, David B. Earle, is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator (Circuit Civil and County Court). As a practicing civil trial lawyer for more than twenty (20) years, and a mediator since 2007, Mr. Earle has participated in hundreds of mediations. Additionally, Mr. Earle is a Florida Supreme Court Approved Arbitrator and well-experienced in that arena as an advocate and an arbitrator. The firm provides ADR services in areas which include: business disputes; civil rights disputes; commercial disputes; community association matters; contract disputes; debt collection matters; employment-related disputes including contracts, non-compete agreements and Title VII, ADA, ADEA and state FCHR issues; probate and trust disputes; real property and title matters; tort disputes; and, wage and hour disputes.