What are the duties and responsibilities of the Dispute Resolution Service staff?
Technology................................................................................... Johnnie Mickens
viewing and using the case site, resolving issues with passwords, uploading documents, sending messages, and adding names to or deleting names from the access/distribution list
Filing Claims.................................................................................. Johnnie Mickens
filing the online claim form, paying the filing fee, furnishing the statement of claim and agreement or court order to arbitrate; notifying the responding party
Proposing and appointing neutrals....................................................... Geoff Drucker
reviewing the agreement to arbitrate and statement of claim; providing a fair and balanced panel of qualified neutrals; granting stays prior to appointment of a neutral or panel; and offering appointments to neutrals
Administering claims after a neutral has been appointed......................... Carine Brice
requesting deposits; scheduling pre-hearing conferences and evidentiary hearings; and closing cases
Reviewing and approving invoices....................................................... Geoff Drucker
Does the Dispute Resolution Service operate independently from other AHLA functions?
Yes. All parties, party representatives, and neutrals are treated alike by the Dispute Resolution Service without regard for their status as an AHLA member, leader, contributor, or sponsor. When AHLA members or sponsors (including past and present leaders) represent parties, they and their clients pay the same fees as non-members and receive the same service provided in the same manner as non-members.
Similarly, the qualifications to be on the neutral roster are the same for members, sponsors, and non-members. All neutrals must agree to the same terms and conditions of service. In proposing candidates for arbitrations, mediations, and peer review hearings, the Dispute Resolution Service does not consider a candidate’s past or present membership or status in AHLA.
How do I obtain information about a case?
AHLA maintains a list of people who can access the website that houses the documents, communications, and financial information associated with a case. Everyone on this list automatically receives: (a) copies of messages sent from the case site, and (b) alerts indicating that a document has been uploaded to the site. For security reasons, only AHLA staff can add or remove someone from the access list.
Initially, an administrator grants access to the person who filed the claim. An administrator also contacts the person identified on the claim form as the respondent's likely representative to ask whether he or she is going to represent the respondent. If the administrator receives an affirmative response, she will grant access to the respondent's representative.
A party representative may ask the administrator to grant access to an unlimited number of additional persons such as other partners, associates, or support personnel at his or her law firm. The party representative may also request access for clients and client representatives.
If a person other than a party representative requests access, an administrator will grant this request if this person's email address indicates that he or she is employed by a party or a party representative. For example, if the claimant, ABC Hospital, is represented by DEF Law, an administrator will grant access to someone with an ABCHospital.com or DEFLaw.com email address. Otherwise, an administrator will refer the access request to the appropriate party representative for approval.
A party representative may ask an administrator to withdraw access at any time. For example, if an associate accepts a position at another firm, a partner should ask an administrator to delete the associate from the access list.
The same process applies to neutrals. They receive access when appointed and lose it if they withdraw or are removed.
If you have any questions, please contact Johnnie Mickens, Case Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 833-0776.
Must parties and neutrals use the Electronic Case Management System?
The Electronic Case Management System (the “ECM”) is the official means of serving notices, sending communications, and filing documents (See Rule 1.2). Parties and neutrals often prefer to communicate via email because it is quicker, easier, and more familiar. But email is harder to track and less secure. The ECM automatically sends messages to everyone on the access/distribution list, thus ensuring no one is inadvertently left off of important communications. In addition, the ECM retains a copy of all messages sent.
A document attached to an email is only as secure as the server from which it is sent and the server or servers to which it is delivered, and no one can control both ends, or what lies in between. Uploading and downloading documents from the ECM presents far less risk of sensitive health or proprietary information ending up in unauthorized hands.
What happens if a respondent chooses not to participate in arbitration?
Respondents occasionally fail to enter an appearance or refuse to take part in certain aspects of a proceeding, especially the payment of deposits. The Dispute Resolution Service administers such claims as follows:
Notice of claim to respondent
If the Respondent fails to appear in the matter by establishing an account in the ECM (or by designating a representative to do so) the Claimant must serve the Respondent with notice of the proceedings by other means (see Rule 2.2). The Claimant, not the Administrator, must assess and comply with the service requirements of the jurisdiction in which the Claimant may ultimately seek to enforce an arbitration award.
Appointment of arbitrator
Once the Claimant represents to the Administrator that the Respondent has received adequate actual or attempted notice of the claim, the Administrator will provide a panel of candidates through the ECM for review and ranking. If the Respondent fails properly to respond, the Administrator will grant the Respondent five additional business days in which to submit rankings of the neutral candidates (see Rule 3.2(f)). If the Respondent fails to submit its rankings by this second deadline, the Administrator will appoint an Arbitrator or panel based upon the rankings it has received from the Claimant.
The Claimant should notify the Respondent of the pre-hearing conference, the evidentiary hearing, and any other communications between the Claimant and the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator may communicate
ex parte with the Claimant if the Respondent has been notified of a pre-hearing conference or hearing but fails to participate (see Rule 4.2(c)).
In commercial cases, if the Claimant wants the claim to move forward despite the Respondent’s refusal to pay its share of the deposit, the Claimant must deposit the full amount requested to meet the Arbitrator’s anticipated fees and expenses. The final award may take into account the Respondent’s failure to share the costs of arbitration with the Claimant (see Rules 5.3(b) and 7.6(b)(2)).
In consumer cases and certain employment cases, the health care entity or employer may be responsible for paying all of the forum costs for arbitration and may be subject to default judgment for failure to pay. See Rules of Procedure for Consumer Arbitration, Rule 5.3(c); Rules of Procedure for Employment Arbitration, Rules 7.6(c) and 5.3(c).
Award in respondent’s absence
Except as is provided in Rule 5.3(c) of the consumer and employment rules, the Arbitrator may not issue a default judgment; a final award must be based on evidence presented at a hearing (see Rule 7.2). To keep costs down and to avoid unnecessary delays, the hearing may be conducted by telephone. If no witness testimony is required, evidence may be established by the submission of documents.
Respondent’s delayed appearance
A Respondent may enter its appearance at any time up to the close of the hearing. However, the Respondent is not entitled to have any determinations made prior to its appearance reversed or reconsidered unless the Claimant failed to provide the Respondent with adequate actual or attempted notice of the proceeding. For example, if the Administrator has already appointed an Arbitrator or a panel, the Administrator need not withdraw the appointment and repeat the appointment process. Similarly, if the Arbitrator has conducted a pre-hearing conference and issued a pre-hearing order, the Arbitrator need not modify this order.
If I believe all or part of a claim does not belong in arbitration, what should I do?
A party who does not believe all or part of a claim belongs in arbitration should participate in the selection of an Arbitrator (or panel) and promptly raise its arguments with the Arbitrator once he or she accepts the appointment.
A party does not waive its right to contest the validity or application of an arbitration clause by participating in the selection of an Arbitrator, or by promptly asking the Arbitrator to address these issues.
Responding parties frequently contest arbitration for a variety of reasons.
They may argue that an arbitration clause is invalid, the contract containing the arbitration clause is invalid, the agreement to arbitrate does not apply to all or some of the issues in dispute, or the agreement to arbitrate does not apply to one or more of the parties named in the claim.
Under Rule 3.1, the Administrator will accept a claim, despite such arguments, if it appears that the parties agreed to arbitrate it under the AHLA Rules of Procedure for Arbitration. This is a low threshold because the Administrator is not in a position to resolve contested issues of fact or law.
Rather, the Administrator’s role is to appoint an arbitrator who can decide such jurisdictional issues.
By refusing to participate in the selection process, a party foregoes the opportunity to have an equal say in who the decision-maker will be.
There is no advantage to this strategy.
What happens if a Respondent files an action in court to stay or dismiss the arbitration, or if the parties agree to suspend the arbitration?
The Dispute Resolution Service does not stay or dismiss proceedings merely because a party has requested a court to stay or dismiss the arbitration. Rather, an arbitration may be discontinued only upon the order of a court possessing competent jurisdiction over the matter. If both parties agree to stay arbitration pending the outcome of a parallel court proceeding, the Dispute Resolution Service will honor this request.
Will AHLA enforce an agreement to mediate?
If a health care contact requires mediation under the auspices of AHLA, or makes mediation a prerequisite to filing a claim for arbitration with AHLA, a party may request AHLA to enforce the mediation clause. For legal and practical reasons, we cannot do so outside the context of a pending arbitration.
If one side claims it met its obligation to mediate and the other side disagrees, AHLA has no authority to rule on the disputed issues of fact and law. And even if it were to do so, ordering parties to mediate is often futile. Unlike arbitration, which can proceed without the respondent's consent or compliance, mediation hinges on cooperation.
An arbitrator, once appointed, may decide that a claimant has failed to exhaust a contractual requirement to mediate and stay arbitration pending the outcome of mediation.
By accepting a claim and appointing an arbitrator, AHLA is not deciding whether a requirement to mediate has or has not been met. Rather, it is putting the dispute in the hands of someone with the authority to make a decision. By participating in the selection of an arbitrator (or panel), a party does not waive its right to plead lack of exhaustion and request a stay once the arbitrator (or panel) is appointed.
Can I see the whole AHLA roster of neutrals?
AHLA cannot make its full roster of neutrals available. This list is regarded as proprietary information.
What happens when a contract calls for arbitration under the rules of the National Health Lawyers Association?
The Dispute Resolution Service routinely accepts claims that call for arbitration under the rules of the National Health Lawyers Association. The National Health Lawyers Association and the American Academy of Healthcare Attorneys merged into a single organization on July 1, 1997, which was renamed the American Health Lawyers Association. The arbitration service created and administered by the NHLA has been administered by or on behalf of the AHLA since the merger and name change.
May I appear at an arbitration hearing in a state in which I am not admitted to practice law?
Since the Dispute Resolution Service does not require a representative to be an attorney (see Rule 1.3), it does not require a representative to be admitted to practice law in a particular state or seek admission pro hac vice for the purposes of an arbitration. However, the state bar may require an out of state attorney to request and seek approval to appear pro hac vice for an arbitration hearing.