COVID-19 Impact on Arbitrations and Mediations
COVID-19 has led to rapid changes in the way Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) forums operate. Arbitrations and mediations, once considered speedier options for case resolution, are of necessity being delayed or converted to remote hearings.
Current parties to ADR proceedings must consider the relative pros and cons of pushing hearing dates into the future versus moving forward now with remote conferencing tools.
Companies faced with new disputes must decide whether to proceed straight to court (where they will likely encounter delays both now and down the road, when courts return to something resembling normal and face a backlog of cases) or if they should first propose remote arbitration, mediation, or facilitation.
Butzel Long stands ready to guide you through either analysis.
Here is a summary of operational updates for AAA/ICDR, FINRA, and JAMS as of today.
American Arbitration Association (AAA) / International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR):
AAA/ICDR remains operational, but no hearings will take place in their facilities until at least June 1, 2020. AAA/ICDR physical offices are closed in locations where governmental authorities have shut down activities. Case management staff are reaching out to parties to discuss alternative arrangements, including remote options or postponements.
Guidance regarding (off-site) in-person hearings is available at https://go.adr.org/covid19.html. AAA/ICDR also published several resources regarding virtual conferences that are helpful to consider when preparing for any remote proceeding, no matter the forum. These include the Virtual Hearing Guide for Arbitrators and Parties, Virtual Hearing Guide for Parties and Arbitrators Utilizing Zoom, and Model Order and Procedures for a Virtual Hearing via Videoconference.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA):
FINRA announced this week it will postpone all in-person arbitration and mediation proceedings currently scheduled between now and July 3, 2020. All other case deadlines remain in place, absent party agreement. FINRA case managers will reach out to impacted parties to reschedule or explore remote options.
For cases with in-person hearings currently scheduled between July 6 and September 4, 2020, parties can stipulate to adjourn the hearings without incurring postponement fees.
Details are available at https://www.finra.org/rules-guidance/key-topics/covid-19/hearings.
JAMS has closed its Resolution Centers to visitors, and most staff have transitioned to working from home. JAMS has long encouraged remote hearings and offers Zoom (with HIPPA-compliant features) for arbitrations and mediations, as well as Endispute for virtual mediations. Endispute is a browser-based audio and video platform designed for virtual ADR. Practical guidance regarding remote hearings is available at https://www.jamsadr.com/news/2020/coronavirus-(covid-19)-advisory-for-jams-visitors.