A commonly cited measure of performance for court-annexed arbitration programs is the extent to which awards are accepted by the litigants as the final resolution of the case. However, parties have many resolution options after the arbitration hearing is concluded. Therefore, tracking the various options by which post-hearing cases are removed from the arbitration inventory provides the most accurate measure.
A satisfied party may move the court to enter judgment on the arbitration award. Statewide numbers indicate 26% of parties in arbitration hearings motioned the court to enter a judgment on an award. If no party rejects the arbitration award, the court may enter judgment. Figures reported indicate that approximately 40% of the cases which progressed to a hearing were disposed after the arbitration hearing on terms other than those stated in the award. These cases were disposed either through settlement reached by the parties or by voluntary dismissals. The parties work toward settling the conflict prior to the deadline for rejecting the arbitration award. These statistics suggest that in a number of cases which progress to hearing, while the parties may agree with the arbitrator’s assessment of the worth of the case, they may not want a judgment entered against them.
The post-hearing statistics for arbitration programs consist of judgments entered on the arbitration award and settlements reached after the arbitration award and prior to the expiration for the filing of a rejection.
Rejection rates for arbitration awards vary from county to county. In State Fiscal Year 2005, the statewide average rejection rate was 47% and is fairly consistent with the five year average of 48% (State Fiscal Year 2001 through 2005). Although the rejection rate may seem high, it is best to assess the success of arbitration by the percentage of cases resolved before trial, rather than focusing on the rejection rate of arbitration awards alone. (See
Appendix 2 for Post-hearing Calendar Data).
Supreme Court Rule 93 sets forth four conditions which a party must meet in order to reject an arbitration award. The rejecting party must: (1) have been present, personally or via counsel, at the arbitration hearing or that party's right to reject the award will be deemed waived; (2) have participated in the arbitration process in good faith and in a meaningful manner; (3) file a rejection notice within thirty days of the date the award was filed; and (4) unless indigent, pay a rejection fee. If these four conditions are not met, the party may be barred from rejecting the award and any other party to the action may petition the court to enter a judgment on the arbitration award. Once a party’s rejection of an arbitration award is filed, the supervising judge for arbitration must place the case on the trial call.
The rejection fee is intended to discourage frivolous rejections. All such fees are paid to the clerk of the court. For awards of $30,000 or less, the rejection fee is $200. For awards greater than $30,000, the rejection fee is $500.