The Nevada judicial system has continued to refine its attempt to route smaller cases (generally those with a value of under $40,000) away from district court jury trials and through a series of alternative dispute resolution programs.
In Washoe County, Nevada, there are two basic choices in cases of this nature.
First, parties can proceed through arbitration. In this form of alternative dispute resolution, the parties each strike two names from a list of five arbitrators and an arbitrator is chosen and sets the basic rules for discovery and an arbitration hearing. Evidentiary rules are often highly relaxed and most arbitrations take less than half a day. Also, arbitration hearings occur faster than trials, with most completed within six to eight months of filing a complaint.
The parties present their cases at the arbitration hearing and the arbitrator hears evidence and makes an award to the prevailing party.
Parties may also opt intially to proceed through a structured mediation program. Mediation, unlike arbitration, is a process in which a decision is not made by a third party. Rather, an appointed mediator works with the parties (who are usually in separate rooms) and attempts to bring them together to a mutually acceptable (or mutually unacceptable) resolution.
If a party is dissatisfied with an arbitration result, or if mediation fails to bring the parties together, litigants can opt to then proceed into Nevada's Short Trial program. More on this next blog.