Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts, where the parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons (the “arbitrators”, “arbiters” or “arbitral tribunal“), by whose decision (the “award“) they agree to be bound. It is a resolution technique in which a third party reviews the evidence in the case and imposes a decision that is legally binding for both sides and enforceable. Other forms of ADR include mediation (a form of settlement negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party) and non-binding resolution by experts. Arbitration is often used for the resolution of commercial disputes, particularly in the context of international commercial transactions. The use of arbitration is also frequently employed in consumer and employment matters, where arbitration may be mandated by the terms of employment or commercial contracts.
Arbitration can be either voluntary or mandatory (although mandatory arbitration can only come from a statute or from a contract that is voluntarily entered into, where the parties agree to hold all existing or future disputes to arbitration, without necessarily knowing, specifically, what disputes will ever occur) and can be either binding or non-binding. Non-binding arbitration is similar to mediation in that a decision can not be imposed on the parties. However, the principal distinction is that whereas a mediator will try to help the parties find a middle ground on which to compromise, the (non-binding) arbitrator remains totally removed from the settlement process and will only give a determination of liability and, if appropriate, an indication of the quantum of damages payable. By one definition arbitration is binding and so non-binding arbitration is technically not arbitration.
Arbitration is a proceeding in which a dispute is resolved by an impartial adjudicator whose decision the parties to the dispute have agreed, or legislation has decreed, will be final and binding. There are limited rights of review and appeal of arbitration awards. Arbitration is not the same as:
- judicial proceedings, although in some jurisdictions, court proceedings are sometimes referred as arbitrations
- alternative dispute resolution (or ADR)
- expert determination