17 January 2024
Critical considerations for hospitality litigation, arbitration &
alternate dispute resolution clauses in hotel contracts
Hotel Management Agreements & Franchise Agreements
Mark S. Adams, Hotel Dispute Lawyer
Partner & Senior Member
JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®
Mark S. Adams is an experienced trial lawyer, partner, and senior member of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®. In his more than 14 years with the Firm, Mark has created an international reputation as a Hotel Dispute Lawyer, handling litigation, arbitration, jury trials, and alternate dispute resolution in hundreds of matters affecting hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other hospitality properties. But not every matter should, or does, end up in litigation. Mark also provides pre-litigation strategic advice to avoid litigation and optimize a client’s position for settlement where possible.
What is the difference between “Litigation” and “Dispute Resolution”?
In many circles, the term “litigation” refers to the process that starts with the filing of a lawsuit in the traditional court system and includes all that follows until a final resolution. This more restrictive definition does not include arbitration or other alternative dispute mechanisms.
In other circles, however, “litigation” has a much broader meaning which includes the first definition of court litigation. This second meaning includes all methods of dispute resolution and refers to the entire progression of a dispute from reviewing and advising on pre-contract drafting, through the first disagreement, preparing correspondence, and on to negotiations to amicably resolve issues. It also encompasses all related matters in the dispute from notice of default, strategic positioning for a lawsuit or other action, and engaging in dispute resolution by any procedure such as filing and then prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, arbitration, mediation, or judicial reference (see below).
We generally use “litigation” in the second, broadest meaning of all stages of any dispute and any type of dispute resolution process. In this article, we will specifically name a particular means of dispute resolution where it may provide greater clarity.
Dispute arbitration compared to court trials and judicial reference
Binding arbitration is the dispute resolution mechanism embodied in most hospitality contracts, particularly hotel management or operating agreements and hotel franchise agreements. The choice of binding arbitration may have profound effects on the process and outcome of the dispute. As a result, many parties opt out of arbitration, or attempt to opt out of it. The Pros and Cons of arbitration vs. court trials are summarized below:
Pros: Almost always a faster resolution, typically private and confidential proceedings, parties can choose arbitrators, avoids jury trials of complex business issues and the potential for runaway verdicts. Arbitration is favored by strong public policy behind the Federal Arbitration Act and most state arbitration statutes.
Cons: Extremely limited appeal options, if any, less formal discovery, potential for biased arbitrators (e.g., frequent flyer customers), binding decisions, now offers little savings in cost – can be outrageously expensive. Without mutual agreement, a dispute can only be forced into arbitration when the parties have signed a binding arbitration agreement before the dispute arises, or, the parties sign such an agreement for the particular dispute after it arises.
Pros: Adherence to legal procedures, comprehensive discovery, public record, right to appeal.
Cons: Lengthy process, high discovery costs, less control over timing, potential for complex rules and delays, jury trial waivers may not be enforceable in many jurisdictions (such as California) except when arbitration or judicial reference is provided.
Judicial Reference (or “Reference”) – A better alternative dispute resolution process with the best of both arbitration and court litigation?
Although it is less well known than arbitration or traditional court litigation, in states like California, there is another process that offers the best of both worlds. Many of our most experienced litigation attorneys believe that judicial reference deserves thoughtful consideration for hospitality contractual provisions for the dispute resolution process. CONTINUE READING →