If you are bringing a legal claim in a Pennsylvania in Common Pleas Court, you should be aware that the counties utilize a compulsory arbitration program containing its own rules and procedures that must be carefully observed. For example, in Chester County, all civil cases at law where the amount in controversy in each cause of action, exclusive of interest and costs, does not exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00) and which do not involve title to real property, is to be submitted, heard and decided by a board of arbitrators.
The arbitration program in Chester County is administered by the office of the court administrator and is governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure and the Chester County Local Rules of Court. The date, time and place of the arbitration will be assigned by the Prothonotary when an eligible action is commenced. Some commonly asked questions regarding Chester County’s compulsory arbitration program are addressed below.
Can I object to the matter being submitted for arbitration?
Any party may, for good cause shown, object to the matter being submitted to arbitration by notifying the court administrator in writing with notice to all other parties. The court administrator is initially charged with making the determination as to the validity of any objection to the arbitration. Any party dissatisfied with the determination of the court administrator shall have the right to have the matter determined by the assigned judge.
Can I get a continuance of my arbitration date? If so, how is a continuance requested?
If a continuance of a scheduled arbitration is needed, a request should be submitted to court administration several weeks before the arbitration. In most cases, such request will be granted and the matter will be rescheduled. Further, if the parties have not filed necessary pleadings (such as a complaint and/or answer), the request for a continuance should inform the court administrator that the pleadings remain open. Parties should always attempt to contact the other parties to the action to determine whether they have an objection to their request for a continuance.
Where are Chester County Arbitrations Held?
All arbitration hearings shall be held in the Courthouse in West Chester, unless the arbitrators and all parties agree otherwise.
Who are the arbitrators for the arbitration and how many will hear my case?
The arbitrators selected by court administration for the arbitration consists of three attorneys admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and actively engaged in the practice of law primarily in Chester County.
Stay tuned for more information regarding compulsory arbitrations including the documents required to be filed in anticipation of the arbitration as well as the dangers of failing to appear at a scheduled arbitration. Caution is highly recommended in preparing for an arbitration and an attorney should be consulted to help better understand the benefits and burdens of the arbitral process.