Wait. This Is Arbitration? I Thought It Was Mediation.

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

Early in the movie, My Cousin Vinny, Joe Pesci's character, Vincent Gambini, tells the judge that he has significant experience trying cases in New York. The judge does some research and learns that there is no record of anyone named Vincent Gambini trying any cases in New York. Gambini then does what one should never do, he lies to the judge. He tells the judge that he tried cases under the name Jerry Gallo. Gambini thinks this is a brilliant move because Jerry Gallo is a notable New York lawyer who Gambini has read about in the papers. Unfortunately for Gambini, however, he never read the articles about Jerry Gallo's death. Naturally, the judge finds out that Jerry Gallo is dead, and confronts Gambini, which leads to the following exchange:

I imagine this may have been similar to what the defendant in Marano v. The Hills Highlands Master Association, Inc. said when it received an unfavorable arbitration award. "Did you say binding arbitration? No. We were participating in non-binding mediation. Not arbitration." Things worked out for Vincent Gambini in the movie, they did not work out so well for defendant in Marano. 

In Marano, plaintiffs owned a unit in a condominium development. The relationship between unit owners, like plaintiffs, and the association was governed by the association's bylaws, which "arguably include[d] an arbitration provision." So, after a dispute developed between plaintiffs and the condominium association over a "flooding condition" in their backyard, plaintiffs' attorney wrote to the association's attorney to demand arbitration. He received no response, so he wrote again and stated that unless the association's attorney confirmed that he was "in the process of arranging for the arbitration proceeding," plaintiffs would sue to compel arbitration. The association's attorney responded by disputing some of the claims in plaintiffs' letter but agreeing to participate in "ADR" (alternative dispute resolution). Several weeks later, plaintiffs' attorney again wrote to the association's attorney asking for confirmation that the parties would proceed to an "arbitration hearing," with a hearing officer who would serve "as an arbitrator." In response, the association's counsel contacted a retired judge to determine his availability and willingness to serve as "the arbitrator."

Up to this point, it appears clear that the parties were discussing arbitration, not mediation. What happened next created the confusion that sent the case down the path that would eventually land it before the Appellate Division.  

Continue reading “Wait. This Is Arbitration? I Thought It Was Mediation.”

Would You Shop At A Store Called “Red Grass Buy Horn Monopoly”?

by:  Peter J. Gallagher

If you answered yes to this question, please let me know what you were shopping for. 

On Marketplace last night, I heard a story about something land use attorneys deal with all the time — signage.  My suspicion is, however, that they never had to deal with signage like this.  The story, titled "In China, Signs Translated Into English Baffle," dealt with something called "Chinglish," which is what ex-pats call the hybrid of English and Chinese that results when Chinese officials translate Chinese words into English.  (Lest you think that "Chinglish" is some sort of derogatory term, a man is interviewed for the story who is studying for his PhD in "Chinglish" at the University of Heidelberg.)  The curious translations abound as a result of the Chinese government's requirement that all merchants display the names of their stores in English, Chinese, and Tibetan.  As you might expect, the only outfit performing the translations is a government run operation, and they do not appear to be spending much time confirming that nothing is lost in translation.  A few highlights:

  • "Chinese Ethnic Culture Park," which was translated to "Racist Park;"
  • "Beware of Falling," which became "Fall Down Carefully;" and
  • a series of stores called "Veteran Barbecue," "Incense Filled the Street by the Fish," and "Tibetan Technology Supermarket."

(Click here for a slideshow of the signs.)  One store that appears to have gotten it right is "Yak Meat," unless of course it is an electronics boutique.  Incidentally, Red Grass Buy Horn Monopoly was closed, so the reporter couldn't determine what was actually sold in that store.