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If I have a dispute with two or more people, is there any other method to resolve the differences other than litigation or court?

Yes!  There are numerous alternatives to trial or litigation if you have a dispute.  Minnesota courts often require that parties participate in “alternative dispute resolution” (“ADR”) prior to trial.  However, ADR is becoming more common and popular among parties as an alternative to trial because of its various advantages.

What are the advantages to ADR?

ADR has many advantages.  However, some of the more attractive ones are cost, time, and control.

  1. You can often address your disputes much more quickly because you will not be at the mercy of the court’s time, but rather when you, your opposing party, and a third-party neutral can schedule a meeting time.  Further, the court process is lengthy and ADR can address and resolve your disputes more quickly.
  2. You will likely save money because the ADR process is quicker than the traditional court process.  Because your dispute will, generally, be resolved more quickly, you may not have to pay as much in attorney fees.
  3. You can, typically, choose who will serve as the neutral in your case.  A neutral is similar to a judge, in that there is a person who will decide or assist you and your opposing party in the dispute with a neutral attitude.
  4. You can, sometimes, establish criteria that the neutral must follow during your ADR process.  However, this is only available during certain ADR proceedings.
  5. You can choose whether the decision of the neutral is binding or non-binding.

Binding: If your decision is binding, the agreement acts as a contract – each party must abide by the agreement rules and either party could be subject to punishment if the agreement is violated.  If one party violates the agreement, you can ask the court for a judgment against the other party who did not fulfill their side of the agreement.

Non-binding: If your decision is non-binding, then it is essentially within
each party’s control to abide by the agreement and punishment for violating the agreement
may not be enforceable.

Additionally, you can also choose whether the decision is appealable.

Appealable: If your decision is appealable, then either party can appeal the neutral’s decision to a court to determine the enforceability of the decision.

Unappealable: If your decision is unappealable, then neither party can appeal the neutral’s decision, and the neutral’s decision on your case governs the agreement between you and your opposing party.

What are my ADR options?

There are many options if you decide to resolve your dispute through the ADR process.  The following are a few examples of the more common types of ADR:

  1. Arbitration:  In arbitration, each party presents their case to a chosen arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators.  The arbitrator then makes a decision on the legal issue/dispute.  The parties can agree at the beginning of the arbitration whether the arbitrator’s decision is binding or non-binding.
  2. Mediation:  In mediation, a third-party neutral facilitates a discussion between the two parties.  The aim of the neutral is to assist the parties in understanding the facts and pointing out the weaknesses and strengths of each side.  The parties have the final say in the outcome of mediation; the mediator does not make any decisions on the outcome of the case.
  3. Mediation-Arbitration:  Also known as a “Med-Arb,” consists of a hybrid of a mediation and arbitration.  The proceeding begins as a mediation where the parties mediate or discuss their disputed issues.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement, then the neutral will become an arbitrator and make a decision based on the legal issues.
  4. Consensual Special Magistrate:  The parties can hire or retain a consensual special magistrate.  In these proceedings, the parties and their attorneys will present the matter as though the magistrate is the judge.  The magistrate will make a decisions based on the arguments on the case, just as a judge would in traditional court, and the magistrate’s opinion can be appealed directly to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
  5. Early Neutral Evaluation:  In these proceedings, the attorneys and clients will present the main issues, or core, of the dispute to a neutral evaluator.  The neutral evaluator will then give his or her assessment of the case.  This ADR option occurs after the filing of the case, but before discovery; the purpose to help narrow the dispute and discovery for both parties.
  6. (6) Mini-Trial:  Attorneys and their clients will present their positions to a third-party neutral, or whomever they select, to develop a basis for settlement negotiations.
  7. (7) Other:  Parties may create their own ADR process, so long as the created process is explained in writing, such as an information statement.

There are many benefits of ADR and various options within ADR that can address your disputes without going to trial or through litigation.  Having an attorney assist you through the ADR process can help you present an effective case to the neutral.  Being represented by an attorney during your ADR proceedings may help ensure your outcome is fair and just.


Minnesota Business Law AttorneyThis post was created by Joseph Dudley and Christopher Boline, civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution attorneys at Dudley and Smith, P.A.  Mr. Dudley and Mr. Boline have worked with clients in alternative dispute resolution matters.  If you have questions about the alternative dispute resolution process, please contact Mr. Dudley at 651-291-1717 or by email at, or please contact Mr. Boline at 651-291-1717 or by email at   Dudley and Smith, P.A. is a full service law firm with offices in St. Paul, Bloomington, Burnsville, Chanhassen, White Bear Lake, and Woodbury.


Minnesota Business Law AttorneyThe law is continually evolving and Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.  Postings are for informational purposes and are not solicitations, legal advice, or tax advice.  A viewer of Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog should not rely upon any information in the blog without seeking legal counsel.