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Rule Change: The Revised Commercial Arbitration Rules of the AAA

In an important development, the American Arbitration Association has revised its Commercial Arbitration Rules to include a host of changes that seek to streamline arbitration and make the process more cost-effective and tightly managed. The rules, which can be found here, are amended and effective as of October 1, 2013. As a result, practitioners filing new arbitration claims that will be governed by the Commercial Arbitration Rules will need to familiarize themselves with the revisions, as they provide significant changes in the process. Litigators should also note that parties to ICDR proceedings may choose to use these rules instead of the ICDR International Arbitration Rules.

The revisions cover a host of different matters. One of the more salient revisions is that any case with a claim of $75,000 or more now requires the parties to mediate (although either party may unilaterally opt out of this step). The rules also provide new guidelines for preliminary hearings, including a checklist of subjects that should be addressed in order to expedite the arbitration. In addition, arbitrators are also accorded more power to grant remedies and sanctions for non-payment and non-compliance from a party. Dispositive motions are now explicitly permitted under the rules, provided the moving party can show that "the motion is likely to succeed and dispose of or narrow the issues in the case."

Among the most significant revisions are the changes made to the discovery process, particularly in the area of document production. The revised rules specify that an arbitrator may, of his or her own initiative, require the parties only to produce those documents "not otherwise readily available to the party seeking the documents," and which are both "relevant and material to the outcome of disputed issues." This rule narrows the scope of discovery that was permissible under the older rules. By giving the arbitrator greater control in managing discovery, the AAA is hoping to comply with the expectation of arbitral parties who demand more efficient and cost-effective arbitration.

For a more detailed look at these and the many other changes made to the Commercial Arbitration Rules, the AAA has provided a brochure summarizing the new and revised rules, which can be found here.

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