Archive | General RSS feed for this section

eQuibbly Online Arbitration Questions & Concerns Answered

16 Jun

Online Arbitration Questions & Answers


Who arbitrates the cases on eQuibbly?

Arbitrations are conducted and decided by former court Judges with years of experience presiding over civil cases in American courts of law. The Judges have retired from their official duties and are now conducting private arbitrations for eQuibbly. You can view their experience and qualifications on the Judges page.


How do we know your Judges are neutral and unbiased?

Our arbitrators are former court judges – they are professionals who were trusted by the government to make decisions about cases in court. We do not, and would not ever, allow arbitration decisions to be made based on keeping any corporate account happy. It goes against every moral fiber of our being and everything we hold dear. It simply would not be tolerated. Arbitrators take an oath to make unbiased decisions and we hold them to that oath. In any event, pursuant to the New York Convention, the Federal Arbitration Act, and other similar arbitration Acts, anyone who can prove that the there has been partiality or prejudice can have the Award overturned by a court.


What “law” is applied in determining disputes?

The parties to a dispute can have a custom arbitration and agree beforehand what jurisdiction’s laws they would like to apply. The default according to eQuibbly’s arbitration Rules is to apply American legal principles (U.S. and Canadian) and what is fair and just given the circumstances and the facts surrounding the dispute. Examples of American legal principles include: the right for private parties to enter into private contracts; a contract consists of voluntary promises between competent parties to do, or not to do, something, which the law will enforce; equality before the law, et cetera. The majority of small claims cases deal with landlord/tenant disputes, collection of debt, and breach of contract. The laws in most jurisdictions with respect to most matters that come before our Judges are not so different that they will not be able decide cases based on American legal principles. Where necessary, our Judges will research the matter at issue to arrive at a just decision.


How do the parties submit evidence and how do the arbitrators know it’s real?

Parties submit evidence by uploading it to a secure, password-protected location on eQuibbly, which can be accessed by the Judge and both parties. Authentication of the evidence works the same way as it would in court. An arbitrator can subpoena witnesses and require that a document be notarized or sworn if necessary. By law, an arbitrator can administer oaths, subpoena witnesses and documents, and impose penalties for being untruthful, just as a court would.


Does the opposing party have a chance to contest the evidence presented?

Both parties and the Judge have secured access to all the evidence online pertaining to the dispute. The parties are given ample opportunity to view all the evidence and contest it in the ‘hearing’ before an Award is made. The ‘hearing’ online is not the same as court where the parties have to make all arguments in a single 3 or 4 hour sitting. It may take place over several days, or even weeks if necessary, with questions and answers going back and forth as and when the parties and the Judge have time to respond. Text conversation can be instant, or not. However, there is no pre-hearing discovery of documents, since it is an expedited process as opposed to court where discovery could go on for months and costs can skyrocket.


Are inarticulate people disadvantaged?

Most of the arbitration takes place in synchronous and asynchronous text chat online. So the parties can take their time and choose their words carefully. Or the parties can have their statements translated for them if necessary prior to submitting them. The parties’ opening statements are submitted online before a Judge gets involved so they have a lot of time to make sure they are conveying properly what they intend to communicate. If the Judge deems it necessary for a fair arbitration, a live video conference can be held.


Can the arbitrator’s decision be appealed?

Arbitral institutions have a choice of whether to allow appeals of their Awards (the arbitrator’s decision) – it is addressed in their Arbitration Rules. According to eQuibbly’s Rules of arbitration, Awards cannot be appealed. This is done to avoid the situation found in court litigation where parties continue appealing decisions as a strategy to win, hoping the other party will run out of resources and drop the lawsuit or concede. Many people appreciate the finality of arbitration for this very reason. It is no different in small claims courts in some jurisdictions where decisions cannot be appealed.


What if the arbitrator does not follow eQuibbly’s arbitration rules?

The first complaint should be to eQuibbly’s administrator to determine if something has gone wrong and if it can be corrected. If not, the jurisdiction in which the arbitration occurs, or is deemed to occur, has laws governing the arbitration process. If a party believes something unlawful or egregious has occurred, they can petition the court in that jurisdiction to take appropriate action to correct the situation.


Is it possible to contest an arbitrator’s decision?

Various arbitration laws (similar laws enacted in different jurisdictions) provide very limited grounds to contest an Award, for example, fraud, corruption, or prejudice. Courts typically will not entertain arguments beyond those few limited grounds. That is another of arbitration’s benefits – it will not drag on for months and possibly years through multiple appeals.


How do we know this will be a fair, rational and honest means of resolving disputes?

eQuibbly’s arbitration Rules, which must be followed according to the pre-arbitration agreement signed by the parties, are displayed on the website. People can determine for themselves whether they are rational and fair (the parties can also agree beforehand to have a custom arbitration and alter some of the rules). If the Rules agreed to are not followed, or if something egregious has occurred, the parties can petition the court to correct the situation or over-turn the arbitration Award (also see answers to relevant questions above). It is probably less involved than what a party would have to do in court if a sitting court Judge did not follow the law or regulations.


How can we enforce an arbitration award if someone does not comply with it?

Enforcement of the Award is not necessary in the vast majority of arbitrations since we take precautions to dissuade the losing party from refusing to carry out the Award. On eQuibbly, the parties sign a pre-arbitration agreement where they agree that the neglectful party will cover all costs of enforcement, including attorney’s fees, if the party fails to comply with the Award.

As with a court judgment after litigation, if enforcement becomes necessary, enforcement procedures will need to be followed – typically by filing particular forms with the court – for example, to garnish wages. The law in most jurisdictions gives the defendant time to pay the judgment after litigation – often 30 days – and in many jurisdictions, gives time for the losing party to appeal the decision before any enforcement actions can be taken. So even after someone receives a judgment after litigation, they will still have to wait and take further action to enforce the judgment if the defendant does not pay.

With arbitration, if enforcement becomes necessary, the Award would first need to be ‘confirmed’ by a court (converted to a judgment of the court) and then enforcement actions could be taken. The procedure is somewhat different in different jurisdictions, but it is typically a summary procedure similar to a motion or petition. It is not litigation – it is usually much quicker, easier, and much less costly than litigation and usually does not involve any appearance before a Judge. Many jurisdictions allow a request for confirmation of an arbitration Award to be submitted to the court in writing, without the need for a hearing before a Judge, unless it is contested. Once the Award is confirmed the enforcement procedure is the same as it would be to enforce a judgment of the court.


*This is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. You should seek competent legal counsel for any legal advice.

Your Contract Might be Useless Without an Arbitration Clause

2 Jun

Abitration clause for contractsYou are vulnerable without an arbitration clause in your contracts and it could prove to be devastating. Contracts are relatively useless if you cannot enforce them without too much hassle; enforcing them through litigation may be too costly and time-consuming to be practical.

An “arbitration clause” is simply a provision in a contract that requires the parties to resolve disputes through private arbitration rather than litigating them in court. These clauses have become very popular of late since we live in a litigious society where often a breach of contract leads to one of the parties filing a lawsuit. Most people do not realize how costly and time-consuming it typically is to use the courts to enforce contracts.

Large companies like Verizon and AT&T that have lots of experience with litigation are painfully aware of the costs. That is why many now have arbitration clauses in their legal agreements. Look at the agreement you signed with your cellular provider or your internet service provider and you are likely to find an arbitration clause. You also might find one in your employment contract.

Suing someone in court seems like the obvious thing to do to force someone to fulfill their contract obligations. But if they have a lot more money to spend on high-priced attorneys and delay tactics, they are going to have you tied-up in hearings and motions and pre-trial discovery for so many months or possibly years that you will go broke before you ever get the chance to present your case.

Arbitration is usually a lot less expensive and a lot quicker than going to court – especially when you use an online arbitration service like An arbitrator has more flexibility to move the process forward and thwart any attempts by one party to drain the other party of their resources. You can read about some of the other benefits in the article, “The Benefits of Arbitration”.

Where no arbitration clause exists, contracting parties can still agree to arbitrate a dispute after the fact. Even after litigation has commenced, a judge will usually agree to place a lawsuit on hold to allow the parties to resolve it by way of arbitration. But, these situations call for both parties to agree to arbitration at a time when it is less likely they will agree to anything. Where an arbitration clause exists in a contract, one party can compel the other party to arbitrate, and where the party refuses to participate, an arbitrator can make a binding and enforceable decision in their absence.

To avoid the costs and inconvenience of litigation, be prepared and insert the following clause into all of your contracts:

Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, or the breach thereof, shall be settled by final and binding arbitration administered by eQuibbly online under its Arbitration Rules, and judgment on the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof for enforcement purposes.

Why an Arbitration Award has more Legal Force than a Settlement Agreement

6 May

Enforcing an online arbitration awardFirst I will give a short explanation of what “arbitration” is and then I will explain why an “arbitration award” has greater legal force than a signed settlement agreement, which might result from a mediation, or any other contract.

Arbitration” is a legally binding way of resolving disputes outside the court system – it is an alternative to litigation and one form of  “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). Arbitration is used regularly by large companies. Small companies and individuals are not as familiar with it yet in North America; Europeans are more familiar with it because of the government mandate for businesses selling online to provide online dispute resolution.

In arbitration, parties to a dispute refer their case to a mutually acceptable, neutral, third-party arbitrator, such as a Judge on eQuibbly, who reviews the evidence presented by the parties and hands down a decision that is legally binding and enforceable in a court of law. The arbitrator’s decision is in the form of a written document called an “arbitration award”, or simply an “award”. Private entities are permitted by various laws in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa and many other countries to arbitrate disputes and hand down awards which stipulate what the arbitrator’s decision is on the matter at issue and what the resolution will be.

It is this unique aspect of an award of being “enforceable in a court of law” that sets it apart from a settlement agreement or any other signed contract. The courts and the legislators in many countries realize the importance of being able to resolve disputes in private and in a less formal and less costly way than a public trial. They also realize the importance of being able to enforce the resulting award using the power of the courts – as one would have to do with any court judgment resulting from a trial – should the losing party fail to carry out the resolution imposed by the arbitrator. And, of course, the importance of being able to do this without necessitating a ‘re-litigation’ of the matter, since that would defeat the purpose of opting for arbitration over litigation in the first place.

To authorize this, legislators in many countries have passed similar arbitration Acts (laws) that attach special force to a valid award. These laws are slightly different depending on what province or state or country has jurisdiction. However, most arbitration laws essentially declare that if an award was given by one or more arbitrators whose decision was not procured by corruption or fraud, where there is no evidence of a material bias or an undisclosed material conflict of interest, and the award meets certain technical requirements, such as naming the arbitrator and stating the place of arbitration, the courts will consider the award valid, final (cannot be appealed), and binding, and they will confirm it and convert it into a court judgment without anything further needed. This can be done on a simple summary motion to the court; no litigation or trial necessary.  At that point it is just like any other court judgment handed down by a judge. Since there are codified arbitration laws and the courts are generally very much in favor of allowing arbitration, and often encourage it, it is almost impossible to over-turn or appeal a valid award.

This cannot be done with a settlement agreement or other signed contract. One cannot bring a summary motion in court to convert an agreement or contract into a court judgment. To obtain a judgment that would allow one of the parties to the contract to use the power of the court to enforce it, the issue would have to be litigated in front of a judge in the same manner as any other lawsuit. The purpose of arbitration is to bypass litigation, which is typically very costly, complicated, time-coming and inconvenient…not to mention a huge pain in the butt.

One of the other legal benefits of arbitration is that most countries either have a clause in their Arbitration Act stating that where there is a valid award originating in one legal “jurisdiction” (a state, or province, or country) being presented to a court for enforcement purposes in another jurisdiction, the court will accept it as if it were made in its own jurisdiction. Or the country (148 countries at last count, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and South Africa) will likely be a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”) which states that foreign arbitration awards can be confirmed and enforced in any other country that is a signatory to the New York Convention. This is something quite extraordinary since it is much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do this with a foreign court judgment. This is one reason large companies, often multi-national in nature, typically prefer arbitration over litigation.

If you have any questions regarding arbitration or arbitration awards, please comment below and we will do our best to answer them. Please note that we cannot provide any legal advice and any information provided is intended for information purposes only and is not, and should not be construed as, legal advice.

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:


Time Required


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


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

4 hours


Attorney Consultation

2 hours


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


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



23 hours


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.



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.

Courts in Crisis – Long Lines and Ridiculous Delays

6 Jan

NBC - Courts in CrisisThis NBC video explains how dire the situation has become in some courts where budget cuts have led to layoffs resulting in long lines to file court document and even longer backlogs. Although this report focuses on California courts, the situation in most other states is similar. Judges worry that the problem could get worse, delaying and possibly even denying justice for many.

An NBC Investigative Unit has found that thousands of Californians must wait up to four times as long as normal to have their day in court. Some residents now wait five years or longer to have their civil complaints heard by a judge.

Presiding Judge Robert Foiles said that backlogs have reached a crisis point in many courts. This affects tens of thousands of people including those who need to file a small claim, get a divorce or settle a landlord tenant dispute.

Median Costs of Litigation by Case Type

17 Dec

The National Center for State Courts released a study this year estimating the litigation costs of various types of civil cases in the U.S.. The model used to estimate costs relied on survey results from attorneys of the time expended to resolve typical types of disputes litigated and their billing rates. The graph below presents the median costs of litigation by case type in the U.S.:

Median Costs of Litigation by Case Type

Median Costs of Litigation by Case Type by the National Center for State Courts 2013

Our Civil Justice System is in Disrepair

12 Dec

By most accounts our civil justice system seems to be in disrepair. Here are some insightful comments from experts who are intimately familiar with the issues being faced by those seeking justice:

There is significant agreement that the civil justice system is beleaguered by problems of cost, delay, and impaired access…We are talking about being able to afford to stay the course and not being forced to fold because the ante is too high…Surveys show a strong consensus that cases are being settled because of cost concerns…At least as to small cases, surveys show a strong consensus that litigation costs are disproportionate to the value of the case…There was also a very strong consensus that delays cost money…There is, thus, growing concern that the court system is pricing itself out of reach of ordinary Americans, that access to justice is not an issue confined to the indigent.

Rebecca Love Kourlis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. From her keynote address, “Civil Justice at a Crossroads” at Pepperdine University School of Law in April of 2010.

We are witnessing a staggering number of individuals trying to navigate an increasingly complex civil justice system without any or adequate legal assistance and feeling increasingly alienated from the system…Regrettably, we do not have adequate access to justice in Canada. We have better access than in many countries, but it is still not what it should be. Among the hardest hit are the middle class.

Middle Income Access to Justice, 2012, book written by:
Michael Trebilcock (Chair in Law and Economics, Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto)
Anthony Duggan, Professor of Law, University of Toronto
Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School


Litigation is expensive, so much so that it is not cost effective to litigate smaller cases. Plaintiffs with smaller cases must either find some way other than litigation to resolve their disputes, or leave them unresolved.

 ABA Section of Litigation – Member Survey on Civil Practice: Detailed Report December 11, 2009

A few years ago, the World Bank conducted a study to determine what accounts for the success and wealth of a nation. As explained by the lead economist in the study, the confidence needed to promote investment comes from “the efficiency of the legal system and how many days it takes to get to trial, how many days it takes to get a decision once you’re at trial, the lack of corruption, the degree of transparency—the whole set of issues that go into” what is called the rule of law.

Mark S. Cady, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, 2012 State of Judiciary report   


  • The number of civil cases pending more than three years is now about 19,000 (at March 31, 2012).
  • The number of civil cases pending in court was 270,839 in 2011.
  • The number of civil cases filed in U.S. District Courts in 2011 was 289,252. That is 427 civil filings per authorized judge.
  • The December 31, 2011 statistics for the median time interval from filing a case until disposition of the case for those that eventually went to trial was 23.6 months.
  • For those cases settled prior to trial that had reached the pretrial stage it was 13.6 months.
  • For those cases that were settled or otherwise ended prior to pre-trial hearings the median time interval was 6.2 months.

Annual Report of the Director: Judicial Business of the United States Courts, 2011

There is an old legal maxim: “Justice delayed is justice denied



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 381 other followers

%d bloggers like this: