Thursday, December 20, 2018

Phew, That Was Some Arbitration

The lack of any blog posting lately is due to quite a concentrated bit of effort.

I was retained at the literal last minute to represent a client in an arbitration.

So I had less than a week to get up to speed on a case that had been going on for over a year. Preparing for testimony and witnesses and anticipating opposing counsel strategy while trying to get a grasp on the issues, fast.

It wasn't easy as it happened to be focused on a hyper-technical area of law, and the other side, being the claimant in the case decided on a strategy of throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-hope-something-sticks. He had a fair bit of the spaghetti being very nebulous claims and that the technical errors equaled fraud by my client and it got fun real fast.

Add multiple states' laws at issue and it got even better.

The last 4 days have been in the arbitration itself.

The days typically ran from 8:30-5:00 in the arbitration itself, plus meeting with clients before and after, and spending hours on more prep, preparing witnesses, and learning and trying to master over 5,000 pages of exhibits.

Yep, 5,000 freaking pages.

Amazingly, the claimant's counsel chose to not make an opening statement, so I got to set the table for the entire proceeding with a nice PowerPoint as background and opening by laying out his allegations and claims and showing how we would defend against them.

He then got to put on his witnesses Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday we rotated back and forth with witnesses out of order as all of them were remote via Skype or Ringcentral (yay, technology) and none of them could be scheduled just right. Starting yesterday afternoon were more of my witnesses and we finished up with it all today.

At the end of the day today, we finished and agreed on doing written summations. I, at least, know I have won the argument that Michigan law should apply to the dispute, so we're off to a nice start with the summations based on Michigan law alone.

Just like a trial, arbitration can be quite draining as you're putting all your focus and energy into it for 18-20 or so hours a day and snatching some sleep for a few hours before going back at it.

On the fun side, it has really relaxed rules of evidence compared to a court. Opposing counsel started off leading his witnesses like crazy, and I initially objected but as he kept doing it I then stated that so long as I got the same allowance to lead I was ok with it. So, we both got to lead our witnesses wherever we needed them to go which saved a lot of time. The rules also set were that light hearsay was in, double and triple hearsay was out, and I did object to an attempted triple hearsay and was sustained on it, which was fun. Triple hearsay doesn't happen very often. We also got an agreement that all exhibits came in and the Arbitrator could weigh the evidence as he thought best based on the testimony, again time was saved having to admit every exhibit, and since we all knew about each others exhibits it was fine.

The clients liked the job I did, and I think I did a darn good job if I say so myself. I'd say we've got a viable defense even though my clients had clearly made some technical errors in their process, which as a strategy from the outset I clearly stated had happened, as denying it would be stupid as there is no question the errors did occur. But, I showed there was no intent to defraud. I also pointed out the claimant couldn't have relied on most of the errors as he never would have seen the documents with those errors in the first place when making his decisions on things and those particular errors did not affect him in the slightest.

We had a very good arbitrator and opposing counsel was decent, quite smart, and did not play any silly games which was nice.

I need a nap. After nappage, regularish blogging should return tomorrow as I start digging out from all the other work that has piled up while I've been doing the arbitration.

No comments: