Philly Justice

Yesterday I had the honor of sitting as an arbitrator in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas arbitration center.  Back in February, I took a CLE course on the ins and outs of how to be an arbitrator.  The course reviewed rules of evidence and procedure, and showed how arbitrators can best handle situations that arise in the arbitration room.

I arrived at the arb center before 9:00 AM and was assigned to a panel.  My fellow arbitrators were both more seasoned lawyers, and I discovered one of them lives and works close to where I grew up in the Northeast.  Invariably, shop talk and war stories were exchanged between us.

The first case of the day came before us, involving a car accident and featuring a Russian interpreter.  We found in that case that the defendant bore 70 percent liability, and awarded medicals and damages as such.  The second case was also a car accident.  In that matter, although the plaintiff was (in my opinion) not very credible, we found that the defendant bore 100 percent liability; however we limited the award based on the plaintiff’s presentation.

It was a fascinating insight to sit on the other side of the arbitrators’ table.  We weighed the facts presented to us carefully – including the voluminous case memoranda presented by counsel.  We were also fortunate in that in both cases we heard, all parties were represented by counsel.  That made the proceedings go a lot smoother.  I have arbitrated cases in which I was the only attorney present.

All in all, A++, would arbitrate again.  I encourage all attorneys, no matter what stage of their career, to sit as an arbitrator at least once.


Devil’s in the Details

Just got back an arbitration award in favor of the Defendant (my client) in a collection case.  This was a case that frankly, I was not confident I was going to win.  The panel agreed with my argument that the complaint was brought outside the applicable statute of limitations, which in this case was a 3-year limitation under the state law applicable to the contract at issue.  Attorneys often argue statutes of limitations, unclean hands, and other standard new matters as a matter of course, without a second thought.  Yesterday the details mattered, and because of that my client prevailed.  Sure, it’s the arbitration stage, and the collector may yet appeal, but victory is still pretty sweet.