Divorce Arbitration is the Way to Go! So……

by Anthony C. Adamopoulos

A decision of our Appeals Court, Gravlin v. Gravlin, is helpful for those facing divorce.

For collaborative divorce attorneys and divorce mediators, the decision confirms that arbitration is the viable alternative to court litigation for resolving a single issue or even taking the place of a full court trial.

In Gravlin, the Appeals Court acknowledged “… arbitration has long been recognized as a valid means of resolving disputes between divorcing parties.” This Blog has often praised the value of arbitration as an alternative to divorce litigation; with Gravlin, the Appeals Court stamped an imprimatur of sorts on divorce arbitration.

While arbitration is available to replace a public court trial, it is also available if collaboration or mediation reaches a deadlock (a stalemate on one or two remaining issues); then, it is time for divorce arbitration.

When parties follow a simple process, the Appeals Court promises a “… strict standard of review [that] is high[ly] deferential…” to an arbitration award.

What does the simple process involve? The simple process requires that:

Respective counsel advise each party.
Parties freely enter an Agreement to Arbitrate.
Parties knowingly waive a court trial and submit to arbitration.
If there is any trial court review of an arbitration award, the review will be limited to determining:

The arbitrator’s award was confined to what he/she was asked to decide;
The award did not give relief that is prohibited by law;
The award is not based on fraud, arbitrary conduct, or procedural irregularity in the hearing.
(In my experience, the selection of an experienced, knowledgeable arbitrator will result in a positive review and enforcement of the award.)

For collaborative attorneys and mediators, Gravlin is another reason to recommend arbitration for settlement stalemate.

For parties facing divorce or divorce stalemate, arbitration is an alternative to a costly, lengthy and publicly litigated trial.

Anthony is a divorce arbitrator, collaborative attorney and divorce mediator. His office is in Salem.

Mediate Disputes Between Owners and Trustees

By Jeanne Kempthorne

Life in a condominium can be challenging when neighbors do not see eye to eye—and they very often don’t. And when owners and trustees can’t resolve their disagreements, the condominium community suffers. An efficient and effective means of managing disputes is key to avoiding the “condo hell” that causes owners to sue or sell.

Mediation is an approach that is well-suited to disputes among people who have an ongoing relationship and need to work together to make decisions and solve problems. Facilitated discussion assists people with competing positions to hear each other out, prioritize issues, compromise and invent solutions, and ultimately to sign on to a deal they themselves make. Mediation offers more than a fix to an immediate problem. It can establish a mechanism for raising problems, communicating news and triaging projects. The process itself can reestablish long-broken lines of communication, breaking through stony silences and entrenched patterns of withdrawal or instant escalation.

To read the full article, please click here.

Resolution of Complex Issues Go Beyond Insurance

When people think ADR [Alternative Dispute Resolution], imaginations are sometimes limited to situations having an ultimate financial settlement. While this is in many cases true, MDRS has assisted clients in resolving conflicts well beyond dollar signs.

Consider, for example, the family-owned business run for decades by Mom and Dad, now turned Grandma and Grandpa, who are thinking about retiring. Mixed families, involved together for years, are suddenly at odds as their jobs, positions, and futures feel less steady. Who will be chosen to be the next business – and perhaps family – leader? Is there favoritism involved? And what about relationships that are already contentious…are they likely to become even more problematic without Grandma/Mom and Grandpa/Dad keeping the peace and ensuring everyone stays focused on the business? Is it all fair?

There is the question of who works how many hours doing what job to consider, and of course how much they get paid for doing so. Perhaps family salaries were never subject to discussion before, and there are now unhappy surprises. There are benefits, perks, and power struggles on the line. There is, at the very core of the matter, a viable business that must be preserved and run professionally, regardless of these personal and personnel struggles.

MDRS can help resolve a wide range of conflicts, whether comprised of an ultimate financial determination or a complicated host of other factors. Our skilled mediators and arbitrators bring incredible experience to the table and help our clients achieve the results they need: closure and resolution of the issues.

Join thousands of believers when you become one of our clients. Call MDRS at (800) 536-5520 or visit us at www.mdrs.com to learn about how we can help you do more.

Using ADR to Resolve Slip and Fall Accidents

Premise liability occurs when injury is suffered on property belonging to another person or business.  Whether it is the conditions of the land, or activities performed, issues often arise in determining fault. When personal injury occurs it is often the first response to assign causality for the accident, but it can be difficult to prove whether the fault is on the injured party or the owner of the property where the injury occurred – often times there is no clear answer.  Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to reach an agreeable settlement in these types of cases is often the best choice for both parties.

Slip and fall accidents, in particular, are common occurrences.  According to the National Safety Council, slip and fall accidents account for 1 million visits to the ER per year. While the repercussions of slip and fall accidents can vary from minor scrapes and bruises to serious injuries, the accidents often leave the victim in physical and/or emotional pain.  If you are the victim of a slip and fall, or if you are the owner or resident of the location where the accident occurred, consider this:  litigation is often not the best way to handle the incident. When brought to trial, slip and fall cases are highly uncertain and can result in a long, drawn-out process with an extremely unpredictable outcome. Often times, fault is shared and an accident is just that – an unfortunate accident.  With litigation, both parties are subjected to a long, grueling and costly trial that can be avoided by instead utilizing ADR.

As the victim, you are experiencing pain and suffering, and yet during a trial you must prove that the property owner’s negligence caused the accident — not a simple or comfortable task, especially if you wish to preserve the relationship.  As the property owner, you likely feel badly that someone was injured, and are just as anxious to resolve the issue.  With Alternative Dispute Resolution, your case can be heard, and it can be resolved quickly and fairly, with an outcome agreeable to all parties.   MDRS has skilled and knowledgeable neutrals, with a wide breadth of experience in premise liability and slip and fall cases. Contact us at (800) 536-5520.  We’ll help you come to a settlement quickly, easily, and inexpensively.

ADR and Automobile Claims

Founded in 1991, MDRS has perhaps mediated and arbitrated more automobile claims of all types than any other ADR provider in Massachusetts.  Automobile related claims are particularly suited to the processes of alternative dispute resolution, which are designed to meet the parties’ interests in resolving these cases equitably, economically and skillfully, and avoiding the time, expense and uncertainty of trial in the Court system.  Over the past years, the inability of the Court system to appropriately adjudicate the array of automobile claims has become even more pronounced to legal consumers.

MDRS has attempted to maintain our reasonable fee structure for automobile related claims and the present fees for a standard mediation session or arbitration hearing are but $495.00 per party, much less than parties would expend in bringing their case through litigation to a distant trial in the traditional Court system. MDRS also offers what we see as the best available panel of experienced neutrals with extensive substantive experience in mediating and arbitrating automobile claims. Read more.

MED-ARB: Sculpting the ADR Process To The Case

Both mediation and arbitration are now familiar and popular ADR processes used to resolve an ever broadening array of disputes. Over the past years, these two processes have literally transformed the legal landscape such that parties and their counsel are viewing ADR as a more appropriate manner of resolving disputes than is offered by Courts.

Less familiar, and to some observers more controversial, is the hybrid ADR process called MED-ARB, where the parties agree in advance to present their case to a mediator and, should that process not result in a final settlement, the case will be submitted to binding arbitration. In its “pure” state, the same neutral is selected to serve as both mediator and arbitrator.  As an alternative, a separate neutral can be selected to serve as arbitrator should the matter not fully resolve at mediation.  Read more here.

Recent Cases in ADR – April 2013

Keep updated on the most recent cases and latest developments in Alternative Dispute Resolution.  What’s new this April?  Find out here.

Arbitration – Arbitration Clause in Employee Handbook Not Enforceable.  The plaintiff brought suit alleging that her employer, its owner and her former supervisor interfered with her request for maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and retaliated against her by passing her over for promotion and demoting her to a part-time position. The defendants moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a provision in an employee handbook signed by the plaintiff. The Court denied the defendant’s motion on grounds that the arbitration agreement in the handbook is unenforceable.  Read more.

Arbitration – Dispute over Condominium Stairs Requires Arbitration Under Trust Document.  In a case where the owners of the units in a two-unit condominium have been engaged in a dispute over the stairs leading to the front doors of the units, the Court ruled that the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration should be allowed based on the terms of the condominium trust and the commonwealth’s public policy favoring arbitration of disputes.  Read more.

Arbitration – Counsel Fees Allowed in FINRA Case.  In a case where the parties agreed to abide by any arbitration award rendered, the Court ruled that the arbitrators were acting within the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) guidelines by awarding counsel fees. Read more.

Arbitration – Award in Employment Dispute Upheld.  In 2010, the plaintiff employer was awarded damages due to the defendant employee’s breach of a non-competition clause. In 2012, the defendant was awarded damages pursuant to an unlawful retaliation lawsuit. The defendant then sought to vacate the 2010 arbitration award given the findings in the 2012 lawsuit, the defendant is unable to show that the 2010 award should be vacated under either 9 U.S.C. §10(a) or F.R.C.P. 60(b)(2). Read more.

Arbitration – Arbitration Clause Found Not Enforceable in Home Improvement Case.  An Essex County Superior Court judge awarded summary judgment to the plaintiff homeowners in a dispute with the defendant home improvement contractor.  The Court affirmed this judgment despite the defendant’s assertion that the dispute should be arbitrated in Worcester County. Read more.

Arbitration – Police Officer Reinstatement Does not Contravene Public Policy.  Where a Superior Court judge confirmed an arbitrator’s decision to order the reinstatement of a police officer who had been terminated, the arbitration award did not contravene public policy, so the Superior Court judgment must be upheld. Read more.

Conciliation training guidelines modified 4:29 pm Thu, March 7, 2013.  Trial Court Chief Justice Robert A. Mulligan has approved a change in the qualification training requirements for court-connected conciliators, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution. Read more.

 

ADR for Prescription Drug Errors

 

According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors affect more than 1.5 million Americans each year in hospitals alone. Similarly, in a study published by the Journal of American Pharmacists Association in 2003, it was found that American pharmacies make over 30 million drug administration errors a year.

Errors can occur for a multitude of reasons, from prescription drug names that look and sound similar, to incorrect dosage, to drug interactions with previously prescribed medications. It is sometimes an unavoidable accident, but very often it is simple human error.

One of the largest factors in prescription drug error is the multitude of steps that must be followed by hospitals administering drugs in an inpatient capacity. A prescription travels from the doctor to a nurse, who relays the request to the pharmacist, who reviews it and sends the medication back through to the nurse, who finally administers the medication to the patient. Likewise, with outpatient care, hard to decipher handwriting on prescription pads may lead to an incorrect translation by a pharmacist, or when the prescription is called in by phone, a simple miscommunication can have serious consequences. A scary fact is that problems can occur at any point in this chain, which do not account for other problems, such as allergies unbeknownst to either party.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a prescription drug error, there are many options at your disposal. While court trials are long, costly and emotionally difficult for everyone involved, mediation provides an alternative solution for your situation.

At MDRS, our experienced neutrals can assist both parties involved in reaching an agreement in a private and comfortable atmosphere, without all of the added pressure of a drawn out court case. Alternative Dispute Resolution is flexible and tailored to the needs of both parties involved.

 

Looking for Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

 

Taking care of aging parents is a difficult job.  Turning to adult day care and nursing homes for assistance are sometimes unavoidable arrangements.  This decision is often times inescapable – whether it is because of hectic work schedules, caring for young children, or medical handicaps that make home care impossible.  At MDRS, we understand how hard the decision to give up day to day control over your loved ones can be.  Therefore, it is fundamentally important that you feel comfortable with the caregivers who take on the daily responsibilities of caring for your elderly loved ones.

Unfortunately elder abuse and nursing home mistreatment does exist and at MDRS we are often called upon by disputing parties to help mediate and arbitrate these types of cases.  If you believe your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse then here are some key factors to look for.

An article on USNews.com recently offered “9 Warning Signs of Bad Care.”  Contributor, Kurtis Hiatt, consults Dan Sewall, the director of the senior behavioral health unit at the UC San Diego Medical Center, to sum up some of the major, often overlooked, signs of nursing home negligence.  First and foremost, keep an eye out for “emotional or physical changes.”  Hiatt warns that behavioral discordances as simple as becoming withdrawn from activities once previously enjoyed may be a clue to mistreatment.  More physical ailments, such as unexplained bruises or weight loss are also huge red flags.  While these symptoms are not enough to be certain, they undoubtedly should prompt further exploration into the care of your loved ones.

Be weary of a consistently unresponsive staff.  If you are not having your questions sufficiently answered or feel as though responses are vague and inconsistent, there may be cause for concern.  Hiatt cites Jatin Dave, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Center for Older Adult Health in Boston, who claims that “I get more concerned when someone says, ‘This is how we do things here,’ and has no desire to help.”

If the vibe of the residence is constantly frenzied and the directors are missing in action then there may be a cause for concern.  Likewise, frequent staff turnovers, unanswered telephones, and more explicitly, a loved one’s direct wish to avoid interaction with particular personnel are warning signs that should not be ignored.

Ultimately, Hiatt acknowledges that you should go with your gut.  If you believe there is reason to be concerned do not hesitate to explore the possibility.

If negligence or abuse has occurred, MDRS may be able to help you mediate your issue or case with a nursing home.  Our out-of-court Alternative Dispute Resolution and mediation services can facilitate the process so that you can avoid a lengthy, expensive and emotionally taxing court trial.  MDRS has a panel of experienced neutrals, who can help you achieve fair and impartial results.

Focus on Elderly and Nursing Home Abuse Cases

One of the most common types of cases or disputes that we help to resolve are cases involving elderly nursing home abuse or neglect. One of the challenges involved in these cases is that often times if there is an abuse or mistreatment, the injured parties often suffer from a loss of trust.  It is difficult to then move beyond the mistrust into an environment of healing and settlement, which is why these cases lead to litigation.

At MDRS, we understand the difficulties in these cases and how to resolve them fairly and cost-effectively.  Along with our panel members, MDRS takes a careful and impartial approach and examines the facts of the case, helping you achieve better alternatives to resolving the cases at trial.

In a series of upcoming posts we will look at some of the common issues of neglect and abuse that occur in nursing homes, how they can be avoided, and provide some resources to help families struggling with these challenges, as well as discuss our approach to resolving these types of cases utilizing alternative dispute resolution methods with MDRS.