We are all familiar with the old saying “Justice delayed, is justice denied”.
Litigation in the State of California continues to increase. Costs of litigation are also increasing. To start a lawsuit costs $435 in the State of California, County of Los Angeles for an “unlimited” civil case (seeking damages in excess of $25,000). Once the lawsuit is filed, it must be served by a disinterested person which is another cost which varies on who does it. The reason for this requirement is to eliminate parties allegedly serving documents on other parties and obtaining judgments on non-existent service of process. Corporations are persons in the eyes of the law. However, they are not physical persons. Therefore, they have appointed agents for service of process to ensure that service is made to a person who knows what to do with the documents. This eliminates a janitor being served and throwing the documents away.
While you have a right to a jury trial, use this right carefully. Anyone who has been a juror or common sense can tell you that jurors do not want to be in court serving jury duty in the first instance. Their lives are being affected; they are in a place where they do not want to be. Since this is the case, litigants have to be ready to have a compelling reason to take a case to trial. These reasons could include horrific injuries, new or novel legal issues or a myriad of other reasons outside the subject of this article. The law is an evolving creature. The law changes as society does. The current wave of litigation can take the form of intellectual property issues based on the Information Technology) IT world to a personal injury case arising out of an auto accident.
The law has evolved in ways of allowing parties to resolve their differences short of a traditional jury trial, or a modified jury trial. There are various companies that exist that use retired judges to act as mediators, arbitrators, or where a retired judge is stipulated to as a temporary judge with or without a jury. The reasons for the popularity of this system are that the parties get to decide who the trier of fact of their dispute is and when the dispute will be heard. At times, this is not possible in the traditional court system. Companies that specialize in this are Judicate West, Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service (JAMS), American Arbitration Service (AAA) and many others. These companies are not inexpensive. However, the certainty of a trial date, the expertise of your trier of fact and the confidentiality of the resolution keep these companies in very good business.
Another way to resolve your case cheaply (in a smaller case) is having an expedited Jury Trial (“EJT”). This is a one-day jury trial in which the parties give up certain rights to allow the case to be heard in this expedited manner. However, as with all options, care should be taken before making a commitment that could potentially prejudice your case. Another option is to have a binding arbitration with high/low figures. This is called baseball arbitration. This takes its cue from baseball salary arbitrations where the parties agree on a floor and ceiling and the arbitrator selects one of the two figures submitted by the parties. If the parties want to stay in the traditional court system they may use a non-jury or (court or bench trial). However, think about the positives and the negatives of any choice that your make in your case.