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Now Official Court Judges can Decide Your Case Online

10 Apr

eQuibbly Relaunch

Online Arbitration RelaunchAfter many months of quietly re-engineering our web app and our services, we are very pleased to announce the grand re-launch of eQuibbly.com with new features, new services and a revamped user interface that will make it much easier to use.

Now you can pay one low flat-fee for a former Official Trial Judge to arbitrate your dispute online and, within two weeks, hand down a legally-binding decision that is enforceable in a court of law in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and South Africa. It doesn’t matter where the parties to the dispute are located since arbitration laws in these countries allow for cross-border enforcement of the judgment.

eQuibbly now specializes in online arbitration at very affordable rates conducted by highly qualified Judges who have presided over trial courts in the U.S. and Canada. The whole process takes place online in one secure location where the parties explain their disagreement, upload evidence, answer the Judge’s questions, and receive an official written judgment. It is a simple, private, convenient and cost-effective way for individuals and companies to resolve disputes without the aggravation and expense of litigation.

To learn more about how eQuibbly can resolve your dispute – whether large or small – go to our How It Works page and our Pricing page and find a plan that works for you.

If you have any questions about eQuibbly’s new service, please contact us by chat, phone, or email found at the bottom of our home page. We also appreciate any comments.

Thank you,

Lance Soskin
President, eQuibbly

Cost of Small Claims Court vs. Online Arbitration

9 Apr

Going to court is expensive and not at all fun

There is a common misconception that using small claims court is an easy, quick and cheap way of resolving a dispute. The reality is that it is not easy, nor quick, nor cheap.

Although there are many other compelling reasons to use online dispute resolution rather than small claims court, one of the most significant is the cost savings. Even when attorneys are not used, there are simply more costs associated with trying to resolve your dispute in small claims court. It should be noted, however, that it is extremely difficult to provide an accurate cost of going to court since many costs depend on the actions and decisions of the other party and the judge. It also depends on how “cost” is defined. It should be noted that rules and procedures vary by State and specific jurisdiction where your case is heard.

Filing Fees

To file a suit in small claims court, both the plaintiff and the defendant will need to pay a filing fee. The amount varies from about $15 to $200 depending on the jurisdiction as well as the dollar value being claimed. The plaintiff pays to file the statement of claim and the defendant pays to file the statement of defense.

Attorney’s Fees

Some jurisdictions do not allow attorneys in small claims court. Even so, since failure to adhere to the court’s complicated procedures and technical rules could leave one at a disadvantage, to have the best chance of winning, consulting with an attorney beforehand would be prudent. For a decent attorney you should expect to pay at least $250 per hour and often more. Assuming a two-hour consult, that is at least $500.

Your Time

Time is money. Reading and understanding the rules and procedures, and completing all the forms correctly, often takes longer than one might expect. One example is the requirement in most jurisdictions that certain documents be notarized or signed in front of a person authorized to take oaths and affirmations—typically a lawyer, a court clerk, or a licensed Notary. Assuming you value your time at $40 per hour, disregarding all other out-of-pocket expenses, the cost of your time alone can be seen below:

 Event

Time Required

Cost

Filing Suit
(travel to court to file suit and for trial, waiting in line, filling out forms, signing forms in front of a notary)

10 hours

$400

Supporting Your Case
(collecting evidence, finding witnesses, serving defendant)

4 hours

$160

Attorney Consultation

2 hours

$80

Reviewing claim closer to trial
(since the trial will be months after the incident and months after you filed the claim you won’t remember the details)

3 hours

$120

Attending Trial
(You’re not given a specific time – you’re given a window of time where you must be in court waiting for your case to be heard)

4 hours

$160

TOTAL

23 hours

$920

These costs above do not take in to consideration the additional time that will be required if the defendant does not show up in court on the scheduled day and later asks the court to re-open the case for trial. Nor if the defendant does show up but asks for an adjournment to a later date. In some jurisdictions there also is a mandatory pre-trial hearing or mediation where the parties must meet with a representative of the court to discuss the case and determine whether the issue can be settled without a trial.

Time Off Work

In most instances it will be necessary to attend court during the work week, both to file the initial paperwork and for the trial, and possibly to attend a pre-trial hearing. This requires time off work on two or three days–this could be anywhere from five hours to ten hours. Assuming an hourly wage of $40, that is between $200 and $400 of lost wages.

Formal Notices

When a lawsuit is filed, the defendant must be given formal notice in writing that they are being sued along with all the paperwork and supporting evidence. In most jurisdictions, the plaintiff will have to bear this cost which could be upwards of $30 to $100 for a courier or licensed process server.

Total Cost of Small Claims Court

Based on the assumptions above and depending on the circumstances and the value a person places on their time, litigating a case in small claims court could cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000, if that person is self-represented. If an attorney is retained, it will probably cost at least $2,000 more since it is unlikely an attorney would accept a case for less given the responsibilities and liabilities.

Other Possible Costs and Points of Note

There are other possible costs. They are not typical, but circumstances may dictate they be incurred. For instance, since written witness statements are not usually acceptable in court, if the testimony of a witness is needed, he or she will have to attend the trial and their expenses and a small fee will have to be paid. The other party may also bring a ‘motion’ for one reason or another that may require another day in court at a later time. In some jurisdictions there is also the slight possibility that at the end of the trial the judge may grant the defendant an appeal which would mean another attendance in court for both parties. It should also be noted that small claims judgments are public information and could appear on your credit report, affecting your credit rating.

 

eQuibbly offers an alternative to small claims court litigation. eQuibbly offers a simple, private, and cost-effective way for individuals and companies to resolve disputes without the aggravation and expense of litigating in small claims court. A former trial Judge will conduct an arbitration online and after hearing the case, hand down a legally-binding decision that is enforceable in a court of law.

 

Sources:

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/small_claims
http://consumer-law.lawyers.com/US-Small-Claims-Court/Small-Claims-Court-In-Your-State.html
http://www.jud.ct.gov/faq/smallclaims.html
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ithaca/city/webpageguidetosmallclaims.html

Courts Are Creeping Towards Online Adjudication

19 Mar

Below are excerpts from an article written by Maurits Barendrecht, A Professor of Private Law and Academic Director Tilburg University and Hague Institute for Internationalisation of Law: Online Courts Imminent.

“In Canada and the US, the trend towards online platforms rides on a wave of indignation about the fate of self-represented litigants. A very large proportion of users of courts cannot afford a lawyer. Others do not want to hire a lawyer, because they want to stay in control of the process themselves, needing guidance instead of directions. A well-received study by Julie MacFarlane also shows that court forms are complex, lengthy and difficult to understand, even for trained professionals. Most of these litigants end up being disillusioned about the court experience.”

“Dutch courts developed a prototype for a platform for neighbour disputes supporting diagnosis, negotiation, legal information and adjudication. Judges will be accessible online, but can also go to people’s homes in order to help implement solutions on the spot. More generally, the trend is towards a combination of online information sharing, replacing the need for repeated intake of the same problem by many professionals, in combination with more close and more human interaction.”

Below are excerpts from Julie MacFarlane’s study mentioned above:

“All the SRL’s [Self-Represented Litigants] interviewed spoke about their experience with completing court forms, and often numerous subsequent procedural aspects of their case. In many cases, these process issues dominated their experience and thus the interview; in most interviews, the process dimensions of the SRL experience – both negative and positive, but often negative – were talked about a great deal more and at greater length than their outcomes. In the 25% of cases which were concluded by the time of the interview, it was evident that the procedural aspects of the experience – – including the completion of court forms, which was often the first time a SRL realized the scale of the challenge they faced – were at least as important to the individual, as they recalled their experience, as the actual outcome.”

“Many SRL respondents described how difficult they found court forms to complete. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that, as one court clerk put it, “there a million forms out there.”135 Sometimes the clerk as well as the SRL is also seeing a particular form for the first time.”

” Virtually every SRL in the sample complained that they found the language in the court forms confusing, complex and, and some cases, simply incomprehensible – referring to terms and concepts with which they were unfamiliar. This reaction was the same across all types of litigant no matter what court or province they filed in (although there were somewhat fewer complaints about small claims court forms and procedures, these were not devoid of criticism either)…In every case, significant time and effort is required to complete court forms.”

British Columbia passes law to Encourage use of Online Dispute Resolution instead of Small Claims Court

19 Feb

The B.C. government is still pursuing its online arbitration and  online dispute resolution initiative. It unveiled plans almost two years ago to take small civil claims and condominium disputes out of the courts and put them online. The B.C. government is putting a task force together to bring this initiative to fruition.

“Both individuals and business owners will find this a convenient and affordable way of reaching agreements,” B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond said in a statement. “Few people want to go to court to solve a legal dispute, which can be costly, intimidating and time consuming. A tribunal offers an innovative alternative to settling a dispute in a faster, more amicable way.”

The government is hoping to launch the online arbitration infrastructure in 2014 as a way to cut legal fees and travel costs for parties as well as to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts.

With the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, the B.C. Ministry of Justice is predicting a 60-day dispute resolution process, compared with the 12 to 18 months it can currently take for cases to wind their way through the province’s Small Claims Court. The tribunal will be available for disputes worth up to $25,000 where both parties agree to participate. However, it will be mandatory in certain types of property disputes involving condominiums.

The Act mandates that disputing parties are to represent themselves in the tribunal proceeding, however provision is made for legal representation in certain circumstances.

The tribunal will progress in four stages, with participants moving to the next stage only if they are unable to reach an agreement:

  1. Self-Help Dispute Resolution using online, interactive tools with information, tips and templates to help the parties reach a settlement;
  2. Supervised Negotiations Online;
  3. Direct Intervention by a Case Manager to Facilitate Settlement; and
  4. Online Tribunal Hearing where a final decision is made – the order can be filed with the court giving it the same force and effect as if it were a judgment of that court.

Arbitration Forces Broker to Repay $3.25M

7 Feb

DollarsAn Investment News article recently reported that a former Barclays financial advisor participated in a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) arbitration where it was decided that he must repay the firm $3.25 million.

This is part of the signing bonus he was paid when he was hired by Barclays. The deal was $928,571 per year for seven years. Barclays was seeking to recoup $4.6 million in the arbitration after terminating his employment.

It is unusual for arbitration results to be disclosed to the public. Typically a benefit of using arbitration rather than litigation is that it can remain confidential. But since FINRA is a regulatory body for the securities industry, their rules state that all of their awards are made publicly available.

This article can be read in full on the Investment News website.

New Report on Access to Justice Finds Much Fault with Our Justice System

23 Jan

Access to Justice ReportIn 2008 the Chief Justice of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., convened an Action Committee on Access to Justice. The Action Committee recently released its final report that proposes a profound shift in the way courts, lawyers and litigants operate. Many of the recommendations are applicable to the justice system in the United States.

Here are some highlights of the report:

The cost of civil and family matters varies significantly. Nationally, costs of litigation based on legal fees are recently reported to be $13,561 – $37,229 for a civil action up to and including 2-day trial, $23,083 – $79,750 for a civil action up to and including a 5-day trial, $38,296 – $124,574 for a civil action up to and including a 7-day trial, and $12,333 – $36,750 for a civil action appeal.

Nearly 35% of the population will experience at least 1 legal problem in a given 3 year period. Few will have the resources to solve them. Of those who do not seek legal assistance, recent reports indicate that between 42% and 90% identified cost — or at least perceived cost — as the reason for not doing so.

According to one recent American study, as much as 70%- 90% of legal needs in society go unmet. There is a major gap between what legal services cost and what the vast majority of people can afford. Most people earn too much money to qualify for legal aid, but too little to afford the legal services necessary to meaningfully address any significant legal problem.

The civil and family justice system is too complex, too slow and too expensive. It is too often incapable of producing just outcomes that are proportional to the problems brought to it or reflective of the needs of the people it is meant to serve.

The full report can be found on the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s website.

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