Alternative Dispute Resolution – Why am I Unique?
Attorney Rerko has been practicing law for more than 37 years. During that time, she has handled many different types of cases and in various forms of litigation such as family law matters, personal injury matters, workers’ compensation cases, and general civil litigation matters. Those required participation in settlement conferences, mediations, arbitrations, informal negotiation of settlements of cases such as motor vehicle accidents. All of that experience has provided a wealth of knowledge of the alternative ways to resolve conflicts. Attorney Rerko has served as an arbitrator for cases in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, including serving as a chair of the arbitration panels. With the completion of her Masters’ Degree in Conflict Resolution, she has acquired additional hands-on experience with group simulated mediation exercises, as well as extensive classwork and thus honing the skills and knowledge necessary to serve as a third party neutral – a Mediator – in conflict situations. While knowledge of the substantive law of the particular dispute is not necessary to serving as a mediator, her many years of experience in handling cases in litigation settings and acting as an advocate for her clients, along with this MA Degree, will enhance her ability to mediate cases for those who require the assistance of a third party neutral to resolve their conflict. In a culture of ever-increasing lawsuits, more alternative means of resolving those disputes is a good direction to take, and one that will reduce court backlog as well as achieve quicker results for litigants.
Who benefits from Mediation?
Mediation can offer benefits in lots of ways. Parties to a personal injury case, such as an automobile accident case, can settle the case without waiting for a court decision. Neighborhood disputes can be resolved without going to court. Those involved in disputes in the settlement of a decedent’s estate, or parties in dividing a business, are able to settle their differences amicably. In any situation where a dispute has arisen between parties, mediation provides to the parties the possibility of resolving that dispute themselves, rather than having a court impose a decision upon them that the parties do not like.
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a method and process that is often utilized to settle disputes between 2 or more parties. It occurs in several ways. Some of those ways are mediation, arbitration, and early neutral evaluations. Although most often we think of ADR as something that is only used in court proceedings, in fact it is also useful in many other ways and situations.
For example, in neighborhood disputes, or disputes between landlords and tenants, mediators will work with both sides in an effort to resolve issues that arise between them. Those mediations will generally occur before an actual lawsuit is filed by the parties. The goal is not only to resolve the immediate problem but often is an effort to head off any possible problems that might arise in the future between the parties.
Choosing ADR may be a way to save time and costs of more formal litigation. If this is something that you think you may want to try, talk with your attorney about whether it would be a good choice for you and your situation.
In an Arbitration, the parties to a conflict or dispute present their case to a third party. This third party is known as an Arbitrator. Just like a Mediator, the Arbitrator does not have any stake in the outcome of their case. They are chosen by the parties and their attorneys for their expertise in understanding and resolving conflicts. They may also be chosen for the knowledge and experience in the particular field of law that is in dispute, such as personal injury or contract matters.
In an Arbitration procedure, each party is allotted time to present their case. They may do this through live testimony as well as by submitting recorded testimony of other witnesses (this is known as depositions). They may submit written documents and other information as well. After each side has had the opportunity to present their case, the Arbitrator will review everything and make a decision about the issues raised in the case.
Sometimes the parties will have agreed ahead of time to be bound by the findings of the Arbitrator. This is sometimes called “Binding Arbitration.” Sometimes the parties will be able to continue to court with their case and not be bound by the decision of the Arbitrator. This is called “Non-Binding Arbitration.” In either event, Arbitration is an alternative way to resolve a dispute rather than going through a formal court proceeding. Just as in a Mediation procedure, Arbitration may be a way to save time and costs of more formal litigation.
Quatrini Law Group attorney, Ernie Orsatti, established a new legal precedent for a group (ACCESS) of drivers who provide transportation to elderly and disabled individuals. The ACCESS drivers worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Instead of getting paid time and one-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week, the drivers were only paid straight time. Up until Ernie’s case – Packard v. Pittsburgh Transportation Co. – ACCESS drivers were considered exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Attorney Orsatti’s victory established that the Motor Carriers exemption did not apply and that ACCESS drivers were entitled to their overtime compensation. Bravo, Ernie!
I brought suit against a nightclub for serving alcohol to a man who was visibly intoxicated. Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act makes that illegal. The man was killed in an auto accident. The nightclub’s insurance wouldn’t offer anything. At trial, our case went well. While the jury was deliberating on its verdict, the lawyer for the nightclub came to me and offered virtually all of the insurance money available. We settled. The client’s widow now had some financial stability back in her life.
A City of Erie employee was terminated in 2016. Teamsters Local 397 processed his grievance to arbitration. Attorney Ernie Orsatti persuaded the arbitrator that there was no just cause for the firing and ordered reinstatement with full back pay/benefits. The City appealed to Erie County Common Pleas Court. The Court ruled against the City. While the case was pending, the City fired the employee, again, precipitating a second arbitration. Attorney Orsatti also won the second arbitration. This appeal ended up in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which remanded the case. Ultimately, the Common Pleas Court confirmed the arbitration award. The City appealed, again, and lost again. The end of the story – the employee is now back to work and is entitled to over $300,000.00 in back pay/benefits. Persistence found! Bravo, Ernie.
On May 3, 2022, I received a favorable arbitration decision which provided that the employer violated the collective bargaining agreement when they forced two employees to work the third shift after working the previous back-to-back third shift and first shift. The arbitrator rejected the employer’s argument that there were not enough employees available to work the third shift. Unions cannot force employers to hire more employees, but the impact of this decision is that in order to comply with this arbitration award, the employer will be required to hire more employees.