Have you ever read through your credit card agreements? Have you truly read through each clause? You probably haven’t read them, unless you’re the rare exception or an attorney who gets paid to do so.
Most of these agreements include arbitration agreements, where you agree, by opening the account, to resolve any issues by arbitration instead of a jury trial. There are rules against contractual waivers of the right to a trial by jury, but we’ll cover that another day.
So, what is Arbitration? Simply put, it’s a non-binding alternative to litigation. Instead of a judge, you’ll argue in front of one or several arbitrators. Arbitrators are usually attorneys or retired judges, who are familiar and experienced enough with the law to make a sound judgment in your case. Arbitration is generally run like a short trial: (1) You make introductions and opening arguments; (2) Present evidence/question the witnesses; (4) Making closing arguments; and (4) The Arbitrator gives an arbitration award, which can become a final judgment.
Arbitration is non-binding, however, because either party can appeal for a trial de novo (continue with the trial as if the arbitration never happened) following an arbitration hearing. However, if both parties are happy with the result, the arbitration award becomes a judgment and can be filed with the court. You can then collect on that judgment as you would in any other case.
So, what cases are generally selected for arbitration? Good questions. The laws have recently changed in North Carolina regarding arbitration. Session Law 2013-159 concurrently amended General Statutes Section 7A-37.1 regarding non-binding arbitration in civil cases in judicial districts or counties where the programs are in effect, or those that opt to adopt the programs.
Section 7A-37.1(c) previously made non-binding arbitration optional in civil actions where claims did not exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000). Session Law 2013-159 amends Section 7A-37.1(c) to require non-binding arbitration for all actions where claims do not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000). However, parties have the ability to waive arbitration upon consent of all parties to the action. This amendment reflects the increased jurisdictional amount in controversy for the district court division from ten thousand dollars ($10,000) to twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).
Importantly, this change makes non-binding arbitration mandatory for more cases, thus effectively increasing the number of cases required to undergo arbitration. If you find yourself facing arbitration, think of it as a practice run. It can either be the end or just the beginning of your case.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 627-8602.