Today, very few trials end in a lawsuit. In recent years, several alternatives to a trial have developed. In Michigan, the parties to a lawsuit must take part in at least one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before trial. Here are some of the most commonly used ADR techniques.
Facilitation usually takes place at a neutral law office. The parties are typically present during the facilitation. The attorneys meet with an independent and unbiased person who tries to help negotiate a settlement of the case. This independent person is known as the facilitator and may be an attorney. The plaintiff and defendant are often in separate rooms and negotiate through the facilitator. The facilitator meets separately with the parties, explaining the settlement offers, and attempting to resolve the lawsuit.
Case evaluation takes place before a panel of three independent evaluators, consisting of a plaintiff's evaluator, a defendant's evaluator, and a neutral evaluator. The attorneys present arguments and take questions from the panel. After the attorneys have made their arguments, the evaluators discuss the case privately and reach an award that they feel is appropriate to settle the case. The plaintiff and defendant have about one month to either accept or reject the evaluators' award. If either party rejects the award, then the case proceeds to trial.
Some people choose to use arbitration instead of a trial to end a lawsuit. Arbitration is similar to both case evaluation and a trial. There may be a single arbitrator or a panel of three. The attorneys present their arguments to the panel, just as in case evaluation. But the attorneys are also free to present testimony, just as in a trial. The decision of the arbitration panel is usually binding on the parties. This means that the arbitrators make a final decision of the outcome of the lawsuit and both the plaintiff and the defendant are required to follow their decision.