When faced with litigation, whether pursuing a contractor or owner that failed to pay you, or whether you are being pursued for payment, there are many options available which may help reduce time, expenses and delays associated with traditional litigation. Here are four to consider:

1. Mediation

Mediation is a non-binding settlement negotiation conduced with a trained mediator. The mediator can be court appointed (and typically free) or hired by agreement of both sides. The mediator will help both sides reach an agreement. Mediation can be conducted at any time during the case, although obviously, the earlier in the case that it is held, the more potential for savings there are. No one “wins” and no one “loses” but if successful, it can resolve a case so that both sides can live with the outcome.

2. Arbitration

Unlike mediation, arbitration is binding on the parties. Typically a panel of three arbitrators will hear the case, much like an abbreviated trial and often times before all discovery is concluded.  Because it is somewhat abbreviated in both the presentation and discovery, this can help reduce legal costs. The panel will produce a decision from which either side may appeal. Because of the possibility of an appeal, the costs associated with an arbitration may end up being the same as they would with traditional litigation if an appeal is pursued by either side.

3. Bring Suit in The Proper Court

Different courts have the ability to hear cases concerning different amounts in controversy. For example, here in Ohio, small claims courts can hear cases where the amount in controversy is up to $3000. Municipal courts have the ability to hear cases where the amount in controversy is up to $15,000 (excluding interest). Both of these courts can help reduce legal fees as they set their cases on a faster track and typically have less discovery associated with them.

4. Settlement Discussions

It is never too soon or too late to engage in settlement discussions when there is a dispute. It is amazing what happens when the parties sit down together in the same room or at least talk over the phone. Setting aside personal differences can also help parties to get to solutions everyone can handle.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to pursue a course of action other than forging ahead with litigation. Your counsel should have creative solution suggestions available for your case and, in light of the potential cost savings, they are worthwhile to consider.