What evidence can I use at an Arbitration Hearing?
If you live in Allegheny County and have been ordered to attend and participate in an Arbitration hearing, it is good to know exactly what to expect. First of all, Arbitration is a type of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution). Arbitration is a little more informal than going through a full-blown trial.
Procedure of Arbitration
On your Arbitration date, you will report to the assigned location stated on the Complaint or Notice that you received. You will check in and wait for all the parties to arrive. Once all the parties have arrived and it is your turn, you will be ushered into a room where three arbitrators sit at a table. You will sit across from the panel of arbitrators.
It is important to note that arbitrators are NOT judges. Arbitrators are licensed attorneys who are appointed to hear cases selected for Arbitration.
After you sit down, all testifying parties will be sworn in by one of the arbitrators. Once all testifying parties are sworn in, each side will present their case to the panel.
What evidence can be used?
At an arbitration hearing, you can use a variety of evidence. The most common type of evidence submitted is testimonial evidence. Testimonial evidence is when you provide testimony, from either yourself or a witness, concerning the events that resulted in the Arbitration Hearing. Anyone can be a witness as long as they have first hand knowledge of the events that resulted in this action against you. For example, if you are being sued for hitting someone with a car, the best witness would be someone who was present and can testify that you didn’t hit the person.
The other type of evidence you can submit is physical evidence such as documents, photographs, video, records, etc. For example, if you were accused of stealing something, video surveillance from Security may prove you didn’t steal anything.
If you choose to submit documents (i.e., photographs, records, etc.) you must keep in mind that advanced notice must be given. Under the Pennsylvania Code, Rule 1305(b) specifically states:
The following documents shall be admitted into evidence if at least twenty days’ notice of the intention to offer them was given to every other party accompanied by a copy of each document to be offered: (i) [b]ills or other documents evidencing charges incurred, (ii) records of businesses, government departments, agencies or offices, subject to statutory restrictions, provided that these are records which would otherwise be admissible if authenticated by a custodian of records, (iii) records and reports of hospitals and licensed health care providers, (iv) expert reports and descriptions of expert qualifications, (v) written estimates of value, damage to, cost of repair of or loss of property and (vi) reports of rate of earnings and time lost from work or lost compensation prepared by an employer.
If you are trying to use any of the above as evidence at your Arbitration Hearing, you must give the opposing party a copy of those documents at least twenty (20) days before the Arbitration Hearing. If you do not give advanced notice and try to admit them during the Arbitration Hearing, the opposing party may object to their admission and the Arbitrators may chose not to admit or consider them in making their decision. It is important to submit all documents in advance to avoid the possibility of not being able to use them as evidence to prove your case.