16 Mar Virginia Arbitration: Va. Code Ann. §8.01-581.01, et seq. – a Lawyer’s Act
In 1986, Virginia codified the Uniform Arbitration Act. Va. Code Ann. §8.01-581.01, et seq. The 16-section Act presumptively governs arbitration agreements in Virginia absent clear contractual provisions to the contrary.
Arbitration is a binding dispute resolution procedure whereby a “judge” agreed upon by the parties decides a controversy based on a summary hearing with relaxed evidentiary rules; and generally is a cheaper and faster alternative to litigation. However, it sacrifices the parties’ Constitutional right to jury trial and comprehensive pre-trial discovery; so parties should not enter an arbitration agreement lightly.
Courts generally favor and enforce arbitration agreements and awards. The Act enumerates few bases for vacating, modifying and/or appealing an arbitration award.
Arbitration agreements are prevalent in certain commercial settings, e.g., securities, architecture, etc. To the extent that arbitration agreements control an entire industry, so that a consumer has no real free choice to contract or deal otherwise, it could be argued that such arbitration agreements collectively and individually are unconstitutional as an abridgement the right to jury trial or, at the least, are unconscionable.