When it comes to resolving financial disputes through arbitration, there is a shift away from traditional arbitration avenues that require multiple appearances, motion practice, depositions, and other discovery as well as a full-blown trial involving witnesses, experts, etc.  However, not all disputes are equal, and simpler disputes, such as monetary disputes or declaratory relief actions, require less expensive and more efficient processes to get to a resolution.   

To that end, there has been a large shift in the past year with plaintiffs (or petitioners) seeking more finely tuned types of arbitration that fit their needs and requirements from a timing, legal, and cost perspective.  While many arbitration cases took place in person before the coronavirus pandemic, more and more businesses and complainants are now turning to document-only arbitration which sets smart parameters to resolve certain disputes in a more cost-effective and timely manner.

Understanding DCA

Just like you would guess from the name, Document Centric Arbitration involves both defendant and plaintiff providing evidence through documentation supporting their respective sides of their case. With some exceptions, there are no in-person (or even virtual video) conferences or hearings, nor is there the opportunity to present in-person testimonials from witnesses without there being a compelling reason for live testimony (as determined by the arbitrator).  

Rather, the parties present their written arguments or claims, as well as any defenses, and then upload the documentation they believe support their respective position. So, once the plaintiff has presented its claim(s) and uploaded supporting documents to an online dispute resolution platform like Ejudicate, the defendant has the opportunity to respond to the claim and upload its own evidence to reply to the plaintiff’s assertions.   

Once all of the evidence is submitted and the parties have had the opportunity to reply, counter or oppose the other side’s evidence (through the submission of additional written arguments or documents), the Ejudge or arbitrator will review the submissions, ask any questions he or she may have (typically by email or other electronic communication) and then render an award once he or she is satisfied with the evidence before him or her as an arbitrator.

The judge or arbitrator will review the materials provided by both sides, ask questions or for more documentation if necessary, and then make a decision.

Benefits to Document-Only Arbitration

There are huge benefits with this method of resolving disputes during the pandemic and beyond, particularly in monetary disputes such as unpaid debts, loans, promissory notes, or other financial transactions. By conducting an entire arbitration case online, there is no need to attend hearings in person and risk our health. And because everything is done virtually, the two parties don’t need to be located in the same city or sit face to face across from each other in the same room (which has led to many awkward situations).

Another benefit is the time savings. Rather than having to schedule a time to meet with the arbitrator or other party, it takes just a few minutes to upload supporting documents for your case. The arbitrator reviews at her convenience and issues an award quickly, typically within 45 days.

And, like with any type of arbitration, a lawyer isn’t always necessary or needed.

Who is DCA Good For?

For cases of defaulted loans or nonpayment on debt, document-only arbitration is ideal. It is also ideal for declaratory relief actions (such as quiet title) or other deterministic type rulings that a litigant may require. Monetary disputes, however, particularly those that are less than $500,000 usually don’t rely on testimony from individuals as there are sufficient documents, such as contracts, emails, bills of lading, invoices, accounts stated, etc. that provide ample evidence as to the validity or non-validity of an agreement for services, monies, loans, etc.  

Tips for a Successful Arbitration Case

The key is preparation. Have all supporting documents for your case ready ahead of time, including any loan agreements, proofs of payment, or proofs of nonpayment. Formats for documentation may include documents, emails, photos, transcripts, affidavits/declarations, video, audio, contracts, emails, and text messages.

Avoid sending the judge any unnecessary documentation, as having to review it will only create a time lag in the process.

You may also want to include witness statements as part of your documentation if it supports your claim or a narrative of events that is helpful in assisting the Ejudge to evaluate the claim.  A chronological timeline, for example, referring to exhibits is extremely helpful.

Document-only arbitration is a fast and effective way to resolve unpaid debt claims without the hassle of in-person meetings and it is a new tool available in the world of arbitration.  One size does not fit all disputes and companies like Ejudicate are providing a service that is desperately needed in these unique times.