An arbitration hearing is an informal legal proceeding held before a neutral court official called an arbitrator. Arbitration hearings are limited by rule to one hour and take place in the courthouse. The hearings are conducted in a serious but relaxed atmosphere, with the rules of evidence serving as a guide. At the hearing, each side of a dispute will have a chance to tell their story to the arbitrator. Each side can present witnesses and documents.
After the evidence has been presented, the arbitrator will, like a judge, make a decision in the case. Once concluded, the arbitrator renders an award, which is filed with the court. A party dissatisfied with the award may proceed to a trial de novo by filing a written request with the court within 30 days of the award. If no action is taken during this time, the court enters judgment on the award.
The district court has no jurisdiction to refer a case to arbitration through the Court-Ordered Arbitration Program unless a civil action has been filed with the court, and the case is eligible for arbitration under Rule 2 of the Court-Ordered Arbitration Rules. If you are a party to a contract that requires arbitration as a resolution means before a court action may be filed, the NCAOC is unable to give guidance. You may want to contact an attorney for advice on how to proceed.
View court-ordered arbitration annual statistics in the Court Programs and Services Statistical and Operational Report.
To be eligible for court-ordered arbitration, a dispute must have been filed as a complaint in the North Carolina court system. Under G.S. 7A-37.1 and the Supreme Court Rules for Court-Ordered Arbitration in North Carolina, all district court civil cases involving claims for money damages of $25,000 or less are eligible for arbitration.
Arbitration is also required after a magistrate’s order in small claims is appealed if the case involves a claim for money. In those cases, you will be scheduled for a hearing by an arbitrator even if your case has already been heard by a magistrate. In a small claims case, the court decides whether the case is subject to arbitration at the time the magistrate’s order is appealed.
In all other cases, the court decides whether the case is eligible for arbitration when the complaint is first filed. Once an answer is filed, the court will send to you or your attorney a notice called, “Notice of Case Selection for Arbitration,” which tells you that your case has been assigned to arbitration. The form is available under Arbitration Forms.
The following types of cases are NOT eligible for arbitration:
- Cases in which the sole claim is an action on an account
- Cases involving title to real estate
- Wills or estate cases
- Family law matters
- Special proceedings
- Cases involving a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order
- Cases involving a substantial claim for injunctive or declaratory relief
- Class actions
- Summary ejectments
- Collection on account cases where that is the sole claim
Court-Ordered Arbitration Programs
The Court-Ordered Arbitration Program has been implemented in the following counties: