Sometimes litigation cannot be avoided, even with careful pre-planning and prudent management. Whether you have a dispute about contracts, debt problems, money owed to your company or you, or disagreements among owners, we can effectively, vigorously, and thoroughly represent your interests throughout the litigation process. Media Business lawyer Robert Williamson can guide you through an experience that can be emotional, traumatic, and distracting if you do not have competent legal representation on your side.
Sometimes alternatives to lawsuits and litigation in court can be easier and more cost-effective methods of settling disputes.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (Arbitration and Mediation Representing Plaintiffs and Defendants)
Mediation is a non-adversary process by which the parties to a dispute appear with their lawyers before a specially- trained and qualified mediator. The mediator is not like an arbitrator or a judge, because he or she does not find facts or make any rulings. Judicial rules of evidence do not apply to the discussion. Rather, the respective lawyers make a statement of their clients’ positions on the law and the facts of the case. The discussion is confidential – neither side can use anything said in the session as evidence in later arbitration or court litigation. The mediator attempts to bring the parties to their own resolution by discussing in a neutral way the merits and the likelihood of success of each party in the event of arbitration or court litigation.
In this way, the parties are often able to reach a decision which they may not see as ideal, but rather which settles the dispute on terms they can all live with, considering the savings in time and money which would otherwise be spent on trying the case before a court or arbitrators. Mediation is non-binding, which means that, if no settlement is made, the parties are free to proceed with arbitration or court litigation. It is our experience that mediation can be very successful because the mediator is trained to bring parties to common ground. Mediation is often worth the effort because of its comparatively modest cost compared to arbitration or court litigation. Each case is different, and whether we ultimately recommend mediation is based on the facts of each case.
Arbitration is an adversarial process by which the parties typically appear with their lawyers before a single arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators, instead of before a judge or judge and jury. Arbitrators are actively-practicing attorneys within the county or district in which the case is filed. Any civil case in which the amount in controversy is less than $50,000 in a case filed in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for a county or district of counties, or less than $100,000 in a case filed in a U.S. Federal District Court is required by law to be heard by a panel of three arbitrators,. There is an automatic right to appeal the arbitrators’ decision to the Court for a trial before a judge or judge and jury. This is known as compulsory arbitration.
There is also private arbitration, to which the parties to the dispute have already agreed in the underlying contract or by separate written agreement with the arbitrator or arbitrators after the dispute arises. Such arbitration is usually binding, which means that no party can appeal the arbitration decision except under very limited circumstances, such as misconduct by an arbitrator.
There are several reputable firms as well as qualified individuals providing mediation and arbitration services to businesses and individuals. Probably the most well known of these organizations is the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Many contracts are drafted to require the settlement of any disputes by mediation or arbitration under the rules of the AAA. Some parties enter into binding mediation or arbitration agreements after a dispute is under way as an alternative to court litigation. One of the advantages of using the AAA is that it has sets of mediation and arbitration rules tailored to specific industries. Most lawyers are familiar with its rules and procedures, which are very streamlined and designed to expedite the handling of cases quickly and efficiently. Arbitration fees are higher than court filing costs, but arbitration is often much faster than the courts, particularly in jurisdictions with lengthy backlogs and extensive time between filing and a hearing or trial. This saves the time of the parties and sometimes legal fees.
Under some circumstances, arbitration is not superior to court litigation, and whether we recommend the inclusion of a binding arbitration clause in a particular contract or to opt for arbitration by agreement of the parties to a dispute is fact-specific, depending upon the nature of the contract or dispute and other factors, such as the need for pre-trial discovery, which is usually easier in court litigation.
Commercial Mortgage and Loan Workouts
Particularly in these economic times, businesses sometimes find themselves unable stay current with their lenders. As early as possible, you should seek legal advice. We stand ready to help you with a commercial mortgage or loan workout to avoid a bankruptcy or business failure. The key to our being able to effectively represent you is our early, frank and transparent contact with the bank. This gets you out of the situation where you are talking to a different person each time you call, many of whom may have no authority to do anything for you. Our representation puts us in contact with the bank’s legal department or outside counsel, whose contact is a bank official who can help you.
In almost all cases, banks are willing to adjust loan terms to prevent a non-performing loan, because the last thing most banks want is more non-performing commercial property in their real estate portfolio. Rates can be lowered or loan terms can be extended. Standstill agreements can be made to allow the business time to come current with altered interest rates and/or other loan terms, such as the length of the loan. In some cases, we can negotiate with the bank or mortgage lender for the orderly sale of a property a business can no longer afford. Again, the key to success is to contact us as soon as you know you are in trouble, hopefully before you have missed any payments, not on the day before the filing of a foreclosure action, or worse yet, the day before the sheriff’s sale. See Mortgage Problems page.
Business Bankruptcy Representation
Sometimes a business bankruptcy is necessary to reorganize and restructure, or to liquidate a business in an orderly manner under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court. For information on our business bankruptcy representation, see our Bankruptcy pages.
Uninsured Workers’ Compensation Defense, Including Criminal Defense
If you are an employer and an injured employee files a Workers’ Compensation claim against you, the first thing that will happen is that you will receive a form from the Workers’ Compensation Bureau. The Bureau’s form asks questions about your knowledge of the accident and working conditions and for the name of your Workers’ Compensation Insurance carrier. Your answers about insurance coverage will determine if the Bureau will prosecute you criminally. If you do not have Workers’ compensation Insurance, you must take the form to a lawyer at once before answering the questions and sending it back.
Robert G. Williamson is qualified and ready to give you vigorous representation with the goal of reaching a fair settlement with your injured employee if necessary and avoiding criminal prosecution. There is only one defense to an uninsured Workers’ Compensation claim but it is narrow and legally technical. Contact Williamson & Williams at once for an analysis of what options are available to you, civilly or criminally.