Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Options to Conventional Trial

This is from a previously published Mills & Associates Newsletter.


For more information on this or other Nevada Insurance Law topics, please e-mail Mr. Mills at or phone (702)240-6060.


If there is any truth to the old saying “Justice delayed is justice denied”, many people in Las Vegas are being short-changed.  It can take up to five years to get a civil suit to trial in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada.  And the problem is only getting worse.  In 1999, for every 100 civil suits filed in the Eighth Judicial District Court, only 85 cases were settled.  That means that the civil judges’ caseloads continue to increase.  Because of these lengthy delays, the courts and  many people are looking for alternatives to a civil jury trial in District Court.  Instead, they are filing their cases not in the District Court but with the Justice of the Peace or Small Claims Courts.  Even the district courts are implementing programs like arbitration and short trial programs.  Parties are also hiring their own mediators and arbitrators to settle their disputes without even involving the courts.  Each of these alternatives has advantages and disadvantages.  It is hoped that this issue of the Newsletter will better inform the reader about other options that are available to settle disputes.


Summary Proceedings in the District Court
Since 1989, the legislature has authorized the use of Summary Proceedings.  See N.R.S. 29A.010.  A Summary Proceeding involves a dispute of a value between $2,500 and $15,000.  The action is filed in District Court and both parties must stipulate to the Summary Proceedings designation.  No discovery is allowed and the judge hears the case.  No appeal is allowed.  This process is fast but not thorough.


Arbitration In The District Court
Arbitration has become a popular alternative to a trial in court. NRS §38.250 requires that cases of a value of less than $40,000 be arbitrated.  The court trains its arbitrators and provides a list of five qualified arbitrators to the parties.  The parties strike the names of two arbitrators.  The remaining person is named as arbitrator.  The District Court’s arbitration program is non-binding.  That means that if one of the parties is dissatisfied with the arbitration award, that party can request a new trial before the judge or jury.  If the party asking for the new trial has acted in good faith, the court will grant the request if it is timely filed.  If the party that asks for the new trial does not better the result by an appropriate amount, that party can be required to pay the attorney’s fees and costs of the other party.  Nevada Arbitration. Rule 20.


Short Trial in the District Court
The Nevada Short Trial Rules Took Effect On July 7, 2000.  A Short Trial is different from a Summary Proceeding.  Like a Summary Proceeding, the parties must stipulate to enter the program and they can agree to a Short Trial either before or after mandatory arbitration.  Unlike a Summary Proceeding, discovery is allowed and the case is not tried to a judge but instead to four jurors  (normally there are eight jurors).  The trial time is severely restricted and the procedures are meant to create a very efficient presentation of the case.  Cost are reduced by allowing the case to be tried by a judge pro tempore.  Even the bailiff and court clerk are unnecessary.  It is anticipated that a Short Trial will be completed in one day.  Appeals are allowed.


Trial In The Justice Court
The Justice of the Peace Courts in and around Clark County are another venue to try civil cases. Justice Courts decide cases with a value under $7,500.  The Justice Courts have their own Rules of Civil Procedure and the formal rules of evidence apply at trial.  Although the Justice Court rules provide for the possibility of jury, most Justice Court cases are tried to the bench.  Discovery is allowed upon approval of the court.  It usually takes just a few months to get a trial date and trials can be completed in a few hours.  A party who is dissatisfied can appeal the decision to the District Court.


Small Claims Courts
Small Claims Courts, in Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, hear cases that have a value of no more than $5,000.  Although the rules to get into court are rather technical, if they are followed, you will usually get a hearing before the court within a matter of weeks.  There is no discovery allowed in Small Claims.  The case might be heard by a judge or a referee, but never by a jury.  There are no formal rules of evidence and so many people go to Small Claims Court on their own without the help of an attorney.  The Small Claims Court will not award punitive damages and will not grant an award for attorney’s fees.  Recently, the Small Claims Courts have been awarding pain and suffering damages to Plaintiffs that sustained personal injuries.  Small Claims is the highest speed, lowest risk venue available to all.


Private Binding Arbitration
Even the insurance carriers have recognized the benefits of arbitration.  Many insurance companies now include arbitration provisions in their policies.  If the parties agree to private binding arbitration, the arbitrator has the power to force the parties to resolve the dispute.  An arbitrator acts as a private judge over the case, even though the case may not be filed with the court.  The parties select their own arbitrator and they decide on all the other guidelines that the case will follow.  At the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator listens to all of the evidence and then reaches a decision about the dispute.  The written arbitration award can be filed with the court and can be enforced as would any other decision of the court.  There is no appeal from a private binding arbitration unless agreed to by the parties.


Mediators have been hired to help solve family matters, personal injury claims and employment issues, to name just a few.  Any dispute you can think of can be addressed through mediation.  In addition, mediators can be called on at any time during the dispute.  Mediators intervene before and after lawsuits are filed, and even before and after a jury trial.  You do not need an attorney to take a dispute to mediation.  Depending on the nature and complexity of the dispute, the mediation session may last a few hours or a few days.


At the mediation session, the parties and the mediator will meet together to go over ground rules.  The parties present their positions .  The mediator may meet individually with the parties.  During the course of the session, the parties will find those areas in which they agree and disagree.  The questions on which they agree can be noted and set aside.  Then the real work begins.   The mediator will help the parties brainstorm potential solutions to the remaining problems.  The mediator will ask the parties to concentrate on the risks and benefits of each option and will focus the parties on a discussion of those issues.  This seems like a very common sense approach that anyone could follow.  However, where issues are complex and emotions are high, a mediator keeps the discussion between the parties on track.


Parties to a mediation have the option of involving a lawyer.  When a settlement agreement is reached, the agreement will be written down and the parties will sign it.  If a lawsuit has been filed, the agreement will likely include a dismissal of the suit.  Unlike the court, a mediator does not have the power to force the parties to settle their dispute.  The job of the mediator is to help the parties reach their own agreement.  Consequently, if mediation is to succeed, the parties must have some desire to work to find a mutually agreeable solution.   The parties choose the mediator.  In selecting a mediator, look for someone with experience and training as a mediator.  Attorney Michael C. Mills serves as a Mediator and  Arbitrator for private and court appointed cases.  Please call for details on Mr. Mills’s services.