Legal Toolkit Michigan Alternative Dispute Resolution

What to Know About Alternative Dispute Resolution

ADR is a form of dispute resolution that provides an alternative to a lawsuit and a trial.  A Plaintiff starts a lawsuit to remedy what is believed to be a “wrong” caused by the Defendant.  The wrong can range from an auto accident, medical malpractice, a divorce, a breach of contract, etc.   Oftentimes the Plaintiff believes his or her case is extremely strong and will certainly end with a favorable jury verdict; what they often learn through the litigation process, however, is that there are always two sides to every story.  In fact, in some instances the Defendant will assert a counterclaim against the Plaintiff claiming the Plaintiff engaged in wrongful conduct that should result in the Defendant obtaining a verdict against the Plaintiff.

Most disputants, known as litigants, may not know that of all the cases filed in Michigan Courts every year less than 1.5% of those cases ever reach trial.  The reason is quite simple:  taking a case through trial is a very expensive and time consuming proposition that is typically fraught with uncertainty, emotional turmoil, and delay.  As a result, most litigants, to avoid the delay, burden, cost and uncertainty of a trial enter into a voluntary agreement with the opposing party to mutually resolve the litigation that saves time, increases certainty, and protects their important interests in a manner that cannot be accomplished through a trial.

When parties enter into an agreement to resolve their dispute in a manner other than a traditional jury or bench trial, that is alternative dispute resolution (ADR).   Far more cases (in Michigan as well as all other jurisdictions) are resolved by ADR rather than a jury or bench trial. 

The Judge to whom your case is assigned will often order your attorney and the parties to engage in some form of ADR eventually.  One question to discuss with your attorney is the practice of the Judge to whom your case is assigned to determine if, in fact, you will be ordered to engage in ADR.  If so, the next question you might ask is whether it is to your benefit to explore ADR options sooner as opposed to later in the life of your dispute.