Arbitration FAQ

Arbitration is a binding or non-binding process where an arbitrator, rather than a judge or jury, applies the law to the facts of the case and issues an award.

Binding arbitration means that the parties waive their right to a trial and agree to accept the arbitrator's decision as final. Generally, there is no right to appeal an arbitrator's decision.

Non-binding arbitration means that the parties are free to request a trial if they do not accept the arbitrator's decision.

Arbitration is best for cases where the parties want another person to decide the outcome of their dispute but would like to avoid the formality, time, and expense of a trial. It may also be appropriate for complex matters where the parties want a decision-maker who has training or experience in the subject matter of the dispute.

In certain cases in which the amount in controversy will not exceed $50,000 for each plaintiff, arbitration may be required.

If parties want to retain control over how their dispute is resolved, arbitration, particularly binding arbitration, is not appropriate. In binding arbitration, the parties generally cannot appeal the arbitrator's award, even if it is not supported by the evidence or the law.

If the court orders a case to arbitration (following a stipulation or at the Case Management Conference), and the parties elect to use an arbitrator on the court's Arbitration Panel, the court pays the arbitrator ($150 for up to four hours and a maximum of $300 regardless of the number of arbitration sessions).

If the parties choose a private arbitrator, they will be required to pay the arbitrator's regular hourly rate and other charges. The market rates for private arbitrators can range from $200-$1,000 per hour.

A list of arbitrators on the court's Arbitration Panel is available at the Arbitration Program Office or the Civil Business Offices. Many private arbitrators and organizations offering arbitration services have websites or advertise their services.

Parties must attend the arbitration hearing, and may be represented by an attorney. The arbitration hearing may proceed and an award issued in the absence of a party who, after due notice, fails to be present or to obtain a continuance.

Arbitrators listen to the evidence presented by each side and render a decision in writing called an "award." The arbitrator must disclose to the parties any conflict of interest or potential conflict that might affect their impartiality in the case.

Although less formal than a trial, you and your attorney should be fully prepared to argue your position on the case and to present documentary evidence and witnesses at the arbitration hearing. Persuasive and forceful presentation is permitted but civility and mutual respect are vital.

Before the arbitration hearing each side should: organize their arguments, identify and organize documentary evidence and testimony that supports the arguments, and make sure they have complied with California Rule of Court 3.820 prohibiting ex parte communication with the arbitrator. The rules of evidence governing civil cases apply to the arbitration hearing except as provided by California Rule of Court 3.823.

Pre-arbitration briefs are necessary. The brief should include identification of the parties, a concise description of the facts, and applicable case law and statutes. The briefs should be submitted to the arbitrator at least two days prior to the arbitration hearing.

Yes, but all discovery must be completed no later than 15 days prior to the date set for the arbitration hearing.

An arbitrator's award is final and entered as the judgment unless a Request for Trial (trial de novo) is filed within 60 days after the arbitration award is filed with the court.

Any party may request a trial de novo. However, if the party requesting the trial de novo does not receive a judgment more favorable than the arbitrator's award, the party who requested the trial may be assessed additional costs and fees associated with the trial.