If your community association is facing a legal dispute that may result in a lawsuit, you should probably consider offering mediation or arbitration to the other party in order to settle the dispute in a more cost-effective manner.
Disputes with neighbors, city governments, employees, vendors, and even among board members can sometimes spell lots of trouble for an association. Indeed, smaller associations are sometimes even less able to deal with minor troubles compared to larger ones. This generally stems from the differences in available resources.
Even if a small association wants to go to court for a sure-win case, it is often quite difficult for the small association to come up with the money to litigate. Indeed, even just finding the time to attend hearings can be a significant cost for a small association. Owners or board members that decide to go to court could face personal repercussions, such as losing friends or reputation in the community.
However, there are options available that board members need to consider when faced with problems. Mediation or arbitration can lead to reasonable resolution of disputes without many of the drawbacks of a lawsuit.
During the course of mediation, a neutral third-party (the “mediator”) meets with both sides of the dispute and helps the two sides frame a discussion. The goal of this discussion is to find a solution to which both sides agree. Also, because both sides will give input into the settlement, both sides are more willing to comply with the terms of the resolution of the mediation. If an amicable resolution can be achieved, a groundwork for solving future problems has been established, and the two parties will have a relationship that they can build on to resolve their differences.
Even if you do not end up reaching an agreement or a settlement after mediation, you will have at least learned what the other party’s biggest complaints are. Also, having an unsuccessful mediation does not prevent you from filing a lawsuit or pursuing arbitration in the future.
Arbitration differs from mediation in that the neutral arbitrator has the power to make a final decision on how the conflict shall be resolved, and the decision is legally binding on the parties. While it is always important to find a neutral with specific experience in the kind of dispute that you are facing in all alternative dispute resolution proceedings, it is paramount when you are about to pursue arbitration to settle a dispute. With an inexperienced arbitrator, you may risk a decision that simply “splits the baby” without regard to controlling law or legal precedent.
Robert Meisner, Esq. is uniquely qualified to serve as a neutral mediator and arbitrator of disputes, having practiced for over 40 years as an attorney in Michigan. During that time, he has represented clients in hundreds of disputes between associations and developer/builders and has been on both sides of the fence. This experience allows Mr. Meisner to provide an objective and well-informed approach to mediation and/or a thoroughly considered and fair decision in arbitration. Mr. Meisner has extensive experience representing clients through all stages of litigation, including alternative dispute resolution prior to a lawsuit. Additionally, his background in having co-drafted major legislation (the 1978 Condominium Act), his continued advocacy for fair and balanced legislation, and his work as former adjunct professor of law at Michigan State University Law School and Cooley Law School have established Mr. Meisner as a preeminent legal authority in Michigan.
Contact us today for more information about how Mr. Meisner can assist in facilitating a resolution of your dispute.