Stephens to discuss ‘litigious world’ in chamber session

H. Harold Stephens will discuss “Avoiding Lawsuits in a Litigious World” in the next professional development session sponsored by the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

Attorney Harold Stephens

Stephens, an attorney with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, will focus on the massive level of litigation and explain arbitration and mediation as alternatives.

The session will be held on Nov. 13 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at La Quinta Inn & Suites, 105 Westchester Drive in Madison.

Stephens compares litigation to “a dark stormy night. When a book starts with those words, what happens? It does not end well. Litigation is very expensive, time consuming and, I would argue, destructive process.”

In the mid-1980s, the “Wall Street Journal” described Alabama as “torte hell” because of runaway jury verdicts. “In a one-day trial, a jury gave a man $50 million who had not been making payments on his vehicle,” Stephens said. That climate has improved with reform efforts, and “citizens of Alabama have elected conservative appellate judges.”

Stephens began his practice in 1980 as an assistant U.S. attorney in Birmingham. In private practice for 30 years, he has handled varied civil litigation, both at the trial and appellate level. He has defended numerous claims in product liability and professional malpractice.

Stephens considers arbitration as an alternative to lawsuits and “mediation as a kinder, gentler option. The reality is that most civil cases (about 98 percent) will ultimately end in settling. With the cost of litigation, it doesn’t make sense to go forward with a trial.”

Individuals frequently enter into arbitration agreements, whether buying a car, completing a commercial transaction or opening a bank account. “Arbitration is increasingly popular in Alabama and has deterred the number of lawsuits that has been filed,” Stephens said. “An arbitrator is usually a retired judge, practicing attorney or contractor and that takes away the chance of a runaway jury.”

For more information, visit babc.com.

Session fee is $15 for chamber members and $25 for others. For reservations, visit madisonALchamber.com or call 256-325-8317.

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