Satellite Arbitration Cases Grow More Costly, Complex

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Satellite-related legal disputes that end up in arbitration are getting to be as complicated, and nearly as costly, as the litigation procedures that arbitration is meant to avoid, according to Rudolph V. Pino Jr., whose White Plains, N.Y., law firm has handled numerous satellite legal issues.

“Arbitration is meant to be quicker, with binding decisions that offer some finality to the process,” Pino said. “Now it has morphed into something more like litigation than what was intended.”

Pino said he knew of one example in which the cost of the three arbitrators was close to $1 million, not counting attorneys’ fees and other charges. Arbitration procedures, he said, often apply federal rules of evidence that resemble court depositions.

Documents running into hundreds of pages are introduced as the arbitrators demand access to all electronic traffic relating to a satellite or a contract. Researchers and lawyers need to comb through it all.

“So in the end, arbitration costs can approach, or even exceed, the costs of litigation,” Pino said. “You end up with basically a court proceeding.”

Pino suggested that insurance underwriters have a role in dispute resolution early on in a conflict, and that this may help avoid a lengthy process.