Michigan Arbitration Attorney with the Largest Arbitration Award in Michigan History for a Stock Option Employment Dispute
The Miller Law Firm has represented many businesses and employees in arbitration proceedings, and we understand how to use this method of alternative dispute resolution to our clients’ advantage.
Arbitration is often the preferred method of resolving employment disputes. It is also frequently used in disputes between business partners, parties to a contract, and disputes with international parties.
The Miller Law Firm has extensive experience handling arbitrations, and we understand the special rules that govern this type of proceeding. We have had success representing both plaintiffs and defendants in arbitration hearings. We are particularly proud of the $16.5 million award our arbitration lawyers obtained on behalf of a wrongfully terminated employee—the largest arbitration award for an employment dispute involving stock options in Michigan history.
What Is Arbitration?
Arbitration is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators hears the facts of the case and makes a decision.
Unlike other forms of ADR, such as negotiation and mediation, arbitration can be binding on the parties. Binding arbitration is generally final. Parties can appeal a binding arbitration decision only in extremely limited circumstances, such as where there were serious irregularities in the arbitration proceedings or the arbitrator’s decision was capricious.
When Should I Consider Arbitration in Michigan?
Arbitration is a somewhat less adversarial process than taking a case to court. It is also more private. These characteristics make it desirable for disputes between those with ongoing relationships. If you are hoping to keep things civil and private, but you have been unsuccessful at negotiation, arbitration may be a good fit.
Types of cases in which arbitration is common include:
- Partnership disputes,
- Employment disputes,
- Business disputes,
- Landlord/tenant disputes, and
- Family disputes.
Arbitration is also common when a dispute involves parties from different countries. If neither party trusts the other’s court system to be impartial, a private, neutral arbitrator may be a good compromise.
Sometimes you have no choice but to participate in arbitration. If you have agreed to a contract or terms and conditions that include an arbitration clause, you may waive your right to pursue other remedies.
For example, employers often require employees to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Arbitration clauses also show up in contracts that are not highly negotiable, like lease agreements. Further, companies often include arbitration clauses in terms and conditions relating to things like consumer purchases, recreational activities, and website use. In many cases, you can acquiesce to these terms simply by accepting or using the product or service.
If you are considering pursuing arbitration, you should consult with an experienced arbitration lawyer who can help you understand your options.
Related: Do I Need a Lawyer for Arbitration?
Pros and Cons of Arbitration
Arbitration can have both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the pros include:
- Cost—depending on the nature of the case, arbitration can be less expensive than traditional litigation;
- Time—you can usually complete arbitration more quickly than it would take to get a case through the court process;
- Flexibility—you can schedule arbitration to fit your needs rather than adhering to a court schedule;
- Privacy—arbitration proceedings aren’t open to the public;
- Predictability—an arbitrator is a neutral professional who is less likely than a jury to be swayed by sympathy or bias; and
- Less adversarial—the arbitration process is more cooperative than litigation and increases your chances of maintaining a relationship with the other party.
The downsides of arbitration can include:
- No right of appeal—in binding arbitration, the decision is final and you won’t be able to appeal it unless you can show a serious irregularity in the proceedings;
- Can favor frequent flyers—organizations that frequently participate in arbitration can develop relationships with the arbitrators that may put them at an advantage;
- Lack of transparency—if there are irregularities in an arbitration, it can be hard to prove, since they are closed to the public and mostly nonreviewable;
- Less opportunity for discovery—in arbitration, the arbitrator sets discovery rules, and you may not have the same right to compel the other party to share important information with you;
- Rules of evidence don’t apply—the arbitrator may hear evidence that would not be permitted in court; and
- Can be compelled—you may be required to participate in arbitration based on a previous agreement even if you do not believe arbitration is advantageous to you.
Some of these can be both advantages and disadvantages depending on what side you’re on. For example, the fact that evidentiary rules don’t apply may be an advantage to you if it lets the arbitrator hear favorable evidence that would not normally be admissible. Likewise, the fact that an arbitration award is unappealable can be a pro because it makes the result more reliable.
Examples of Our Successful Arbitrations
Breach of Contract/Wrongful Termination
Our client served as CEO and chairman of Compuware for years. In March 2013, he retired and became a consultant for Compuware. However, Compuware terminated him only a few months later and canceled his vested stock options that were worth millions of dollars. Compuware claimed that it was justified in terminating our client because of critical comments he made about its management.
Our client sued for conversion, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. Following an arbitration hearing, the arbitrator awarded him $16.5 million. Compuware attempted to vacate the award in Michigan court. However, the court confirmed the award and entered judgment in our client’s favor.
Breach of Nonsolicitation Agreement
Our client, Heat Controller International (International) had a contract with Heat Controller, Inc. (HCI) to sell HCI’s products outside of the U.S. and Canada and to supply air conditioning goods to HCI. The contract prohibited both parties from soliciting or buying from one another’s customers and vendors.
At some point, HCI became unhappy with the agreement because it wanted to buy products directly from International’s vendors. When International refused to renegotiate the agreement, HCI began using the vendors anyway. International brought an arbitration action for breach of contract and other claims, and HCI responded with 21 counterclaims. We were brought into the case just 68 days before the arbitration hearing. However, we were able to get several important discovery rulings in favor of International that gave us access to important evidence.
In the end, HCI abandoned or lost all but one of its counterclaims. The arbitration panel found in favor of International on its breach of contract claims. International ended up with a net arbitration award of just over $2 million.
Misappropriation of Trade Secrets, Breach of Contract, and Tortious Interference
A Tier 2 automotive supplier brought an $80 million dollar claim against our clients, who were Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. The claim alleged breach of contract, tortious interference, theft, and misappropriation of trade secrets. We successfully defended this claim in arbitration. The arbitrator declared that our clients were not liable on any of the claims.
You Can Rely on Our Nationally Recognized Michigan Arbitration Lawyers
The Miller Law Firm has been practicing in Michigan for nearly 25 years. In that time, we have grown from a small 3-person firm to a nationally recognized team of over 30 attorneys. We have successfully litigated a range of different cases, some with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. We have the experience and knowledge to effectively handle your arbitration. Contact us today to learn more about our arbitration attorneys and what we can do for you.
Our attorneys can also assist you with the following cases: