Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Special Master Scolds in Water Wars

A 25-year water war between Florida and Georgia continues as Special master, Ralph Lancaster, previously appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to help resolve the dispute, expressed dismay this month at the lack of progress toward settlement. Lancaster already urged attorneys for each state to settle the water wars case amongst themselves, rather than risk an unsatisfactory outcome for all involved. The federal lawsuit features Florida’s ailing oyster industry against Georgia’s right to use Chattahoochee River water across metro Atlanta. Florida states that Georgia’s overconsumption of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which includes Lake Lanier, is creating economic hardship, particularly on the oyster industry in the Florida Panhandle region's Apalachicola Bay. Georgia also seeks to maintain full use of the Flint River and its tributaries for farmers in southwest Georgia. The rivers join at the Florida border, becoming the Apalachicola River. Crucial to Florida's seafood folks is a fresh water-salt water balance for oysters to survive in the Apalachicola Bay. There's been no material progress on a global settlement since last year and the Special Master declined to extend this marathon by pushing pre-trial expert deadlines. He accused legal teams of ignoring earlier suggestions to pare down discovery evidence to basic, hardcore issues and instead plunging “even deeper into discovery of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of complex issues that will ultimately be left on the wayside, millions of pages of hard copies and hundreds of gigabytes of electronic files.” Since agreeing on a mediator, the states have only reported forming a basic mediation framework. Lancaster said in a teleconference of the parties, “Let me suggest...that if you had invested up to 10 percent of the effort and time and expense you have used in discovery on mediation, we would not be here spinning our wheels.” See more here-- bit.ly/1USyRNo

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

China Sea Arbitration

Conflicting claims over a group of uninhabited China Sea islets has led to calls for international dispute resolution. As there has been no bilateral dialogue on resource development in the East China Sea in recent years, Japan's ruling party is urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to consider seeking international arbitration over China's drilling activities, mirroring similar action taken by the Philippines. Last year, Japan called on China to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea. At the time, Tokyo accused Beijing of unilateral development despite a 2008 agreement to maintain cooperation on resources development in the area, where no official border between them has been drawn. China maintains it has a right to drill in the East China Sea close to waters it disputes with Japan. The Philippines has brought a case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague about its dispute with China in the South China Sea. China reportedly reacted angrily and has pledged not to participate. The PCA was the first international organization for peaceful civil dispute resolution between states through arbitration, and is nearly fifty years older than the International Court of Justice and 100 years older than the International Criminal Court, having been established in 1899. Arbitration is an alternative to civil litigation, but the arbitrator, in place of a judge, can still usually bind the sides to follow his decision. See full story here-- reut.rs/1Uf7Xiu

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sheen 'Winning' Argument For Sex Arbitration

Charlie Sheen and his former sex companion Brett Rossi are being sent to arbitration to determine whether Rossi's lawsuit against Sheen over his previously undisclosed HIV status will be decided by an arbitrator or a judge. Apparently, Sheen's girlfriend signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that included a mandatory arbitration provision. Reportedly, Sheen's attorneys asked the court to send the matter to arbitration, while Rossi's attorneys argue the entire agreement is illegal and the validity of the contract should be decided by a judge. A Los Angeles Superior Court has now ruled in favor of Sheen's petition to compel arbitration, finding "The arbitration agreement expressly indicates that any questions concerning whether or not the agreement should be resolved by way of arbitration are left to the arbitrator." The couple's agreement “purports to govern ‘any and all disputes, claims or controversies between us of any kind or nature whatsoever.’” The court rejected arguments that because the purpose of the NDA was to facilitate sex for money the entire agreement is void. An arbitrator will now decide arbitrability as has been the trend in legal rulings of late. See story here-- http://bit.ly/1R8YbhF

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

AHLA Amends Arbitration Rules

The American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) developed the first national roster of arbitrators, mediators, and hearing officers with health law expertise. It remains the only national service dedicated exclusively to resolving disputes in the health care industry. Its board approved amendments to the current rules, which will take effect on March 14, 2016. These are the key substantive changes:

Default Timeframe: The goal is now to issue a final award in twelve months, not eight.

Filing Fee for Counterclaim: To file a counterclaim or third party claim, a party must now pay the same amount as the fee for filing the claim. 

Sanctions for Non-Payment: Arbitrators are now explicitly authorized to sanction a party who fails to pay a deposit, unless the failure is due to financial hardship. 

Filing Fees for Consumers: Consumers no longer must pay a filing fee if a claim is submitted pursuant to a court order. The respondent must pay this fee instead.

The new rules are posted on the AHLA website here-- www.healthlawyers.org