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Mediation & Arbitration

Mr. Thompson's ADR experience includes business, construction, real estate, employment, insurance, and personal injury, wrongful death, professional malpractice, elder abuse, will and trust contests, estate disputes, and other civil and commercial claims.

Mediation Defined

Mediation is a process in which a neutral person or persons facilitate communication between disputants to help them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Arbitration Defined

Arbitration is a process by which parties voluntarily submit their disputes for binding or non binding resolution by one or more impartial third persons instead of by a judge or jury.

The Thompson Mediation & Arbitration Center

Ralph W. Thompson is an accomplished attorney more than 35 years civil litigation experience. During that time he has witnessed the effectiveness of using mediation and arbitration to resolve his clients' disputes. He has now taken that experience to help others resolve their disputes without incurring the substantial financial and emotional cost of litigation.

The American Arbitration Association (AAA) appointed Mr. Thompson to its Arbitration Panel, Roster of Neutrals in 1978. Neutrals are authorities in their fields, recognized for both their superior ethical standards and case resolution proficiency. Mr. Thompson was a member of the Roster of Neutrals until 2005. He started The Thompson Mediation & Arbitration Center in 1996. He also serves on the Monterey County Superior Court Judicial Mediation and Arbitration panels. He was honored to be selected as a speaker/panelist for the California Judges Association's 10th annual Retired Judges Conference on mediation and arbitration policy and procedures held in 1998.

He is qualified to serve as a mediator or arbitrator in business, construction, real estate, employment, insurance, and personal injury, wrongful death, professional malpractice, elder abuse, will and trust contests, estate disputes, and other civil and commercial claims.

Alternatives To Costly Litigation

You can often resolve legal disputes without going to court. Typically, the alternatives are faster, less complex and less costly than the traditional court process, and they are often available even if you have filed a lawsuit.

Two of the most common alternatives are arbitration and mediation. In both cases, you may, but are not required to, have an attorney represent you in the process. These alternatives have been used in areas such as:

  • Personal injury and wrongful death claims
  • Insurance claims
  • Consumer complaints
  • Business and commercial disputes
  • Real Estate disputes
  • Employment and labor law issues
  • Sexual harassment claims
  • Professional negligence claims
  • Landlord-tenant issues

Usually, everyone involved in a dispute must agree to use either arbitration or mediation, and the attorney or agency you work with may be able to help you to convince the other side to participate. Also, some contracts may have terms that require arbitration or mediation if there is a dispute. Many believe that arbitration and mediation are more efficient than a trial and allow them to be more involved in the resolution process.


In an arbitration, disputing parties take their argument to a neutral third party, the arbitrator, for a binding decision. The arbitrator listens to witnesses and reviews documents before making a ruling. Under California law, the arbitrator's award is often final and binding and may be enforced like a court judgment. There is generally no appeal from an arbitrator's award.

How Arbitration Works

Usually, the parties agree to follow the arbitration rules as set forth in the law or an agency like the American Arbitration Association (AAA). These rules define how an arbitrator will be selected, how the case will proceed, and what fees are involved. The parties also must sign a written contract to arbitrate that defines what the arbitrator is to decide, and selects an arbitrator (arbitrators may be attorneys or non-attorneys, depending on the case). After that, an arbitration hearing is held, often in the arbitrator's office. Each side presents witnesses and other evidence, and is allowed to question the other side's witnesses. Then the arbitrator renders a decision. Most people find arbitration less costly, faster and less stressful than a formal trial.

Mandatory Court Arbitration

A different type of arbitration is available through the courts, where arbitration is sometimes mandatory to certain types of cases. The court clerk can tell you if arbitration is mandatory in your case. In these kinds of cases, the arbitrator's award is not necessarily final and binding, because a party who is dissatisfied has the right to request a new trial. But this new trial will require extra expenses, and if the party who requests the trial does not do better at trial, that party is required to pay the other side's expenses as well. As a result, both parties often accept the arbitrator's decision.


In a mediation, all the sides in a dispute meet with an impartial third person - the mediator - to attempt to negotiate a settlement. Quite often mediation is successful at helping parties reach an agreement.

How Mediation Works

Mediators are trained in helping parties work out a settlement agreement or compromise. Mediators do not issue orders, find fault, or make determinations. Instead, mediators help parties to reach a settlement by assisting with communications, obtaining relevant information, and developing options.

Mediation sessions are usually held outside the courthouse, often in the mediator's office. Although mediation procedures can vary, the parties usually first meet with the mediator informally to explain their views of the dispute. Often the mediator will then meet with each party separately. The mediator discusses the dispute with them, and explores possible ways to resolve it. It is common for the mediator to go back and forth between sides many times. Most disputes will be resolved, and often the parties will then reach a written settlement agreement, which is a binding contract.

Many people report a higher degree of satisfaction with mediation than with court, because they can control the result and be part of the solution. Agreed-to settlements are much more likely to be voluntarily complied with by all sides. National statistics indicate that 85% of commercial matters and 95% of personal injury matters end in written settlement agreements. Under California law, everything said at a mediation session is confidential and cannot be used later if the dispute is not settled. Thus, you have little to lose by trying mediation.

Differences Between Arbitration and Mediation

The main difference between arbitration and mediation is that in an arbitration the arbitrator hears evidence and makes a decision. An arbitration is more like court because parties still provide testimony and give evidence similar to a trial but is usually less formal. In mediation, the process is a negotiation with the assistance of a neutral third party. The parties do not reach a solution unless all sides agree.

Costs and Fees

Arbitration or mediation is usually less expensive than going to court. The fees will depend on the type of dispute and background of the mediator or arbitrator. Sometimes a daily flat rate is charged and sometimes hourly rates are charged. Often this can be negotiated with the mediator or arbitrator.






Custom House

Custom House

"Resolve disputes without the economic and emotional cost of litigation."