What is Early Neutral Evaluation?
Early Neutral Evaluation is a consensual, confidential and relatively informal process in which parties to a dispute use the services of an independent, neutral Evaluator to provide a non-binding Evaluation of the facts, evidence and legal merits of the matters in dispute.
The Evaluator is an independent and impartial person in whom the parties to a dispute repose trust, respect and confidence to provide guidance as to the likely outcome if the dispute were to be heard by a court.
Generally, all types of disputes are suitable for Early Neutral Evaluation provided that the parties and their representatives are committed to the prompt and cost effective resolution of the dispute and they are prepared and committed to participating in the process in good faith.
Advantages of Early Neutral Evaluation
Early Neutral Evaluation is quick, inexpensive and confidential. Early Neutral Evaluation allows an extraordinary amount of flexibility and informality that blends the advantages of a judicial settlement conference, mediation, and independent expert determination of the dispute and allows the parties to effectively choose their own ‘judge’.
Early neutral evaluation of a dispute enables parties to:
- Resolve disputes faster, more economically and with less intervention from the courts.
- Resolve disputes confidentially rather than having a decision imposed upon them by a judge.
- Negotiate flexible and creative solutions which need not conform to strict legal rights or general community standards with the assistance of an unbiased Evaluation on relative positions and guidance as to the likely outcome should the case be heard in court.
- Avoid the significant time and expense associated with further steps in the litigation of the dispute.
- Avoid the destructive effect of ongoing litigation and delay in having the dispute resolved on businesses and individuals.
- Free up corporate resources to focus on core business.
Cases with the following characteristics may be particularly appropriate:
- Lawyers and/or the parties are far apart on their view of the law and/or the value of the case.
- The case involves technical or specialised subject matter and it is important to have a Neutral with expertise in that subject.
- Communications between parties about merits and/or procedure could be improved.
- The case has the potential for a prolonged period of interventions by the court before a hearing.
- The case has the potential for a long and costly hearing.
The Objective of Early Neutral Evaluation
The Objective of Early Neutral Evaluation is to position the case for early resolution by settlement or trial by providing the parties with guidance as to the likely outcome if the dispute were to be heard by a court in the form of an independent Evaluation of the facts, evidence and legal merits of the matters in dispute.
Although settlement is not the primary objective, the purpose of early neutral evaluation is to promote settlement discussions at an early stage in the litigation progress, or at the very least to assist parties avoid the significant time and expense associated with further steps in litigation of the dispute by:
- Enhancing communication between the parties about their claims and supporting evidence.
- Identifying, clarifying and focusing on the key matters at issue.
- Assisting with discovery and serving as a cost effective alternative to formal discovery by requiring and facilitating the cost effective and informal exchange of key information.
- Providing an objective and independent evaluation of the merits of the case by a respected, independent neutral.
- Providing a reality check for the parties and their lawyers on the probable outcome if the dispute were to be heard by a court and the cost of that process.
- Facilitating settlement negotiations.
- Empowering parties by leaving decision making in their hands.
To find out more about the Tribunal’s Early Neutral Evaluation service or to engage one of our Evaluators, please contact Building Disputes Tribunal on (09) 486 7143.
If you wish to apply to have your Building Dispute resolved by Early Neutral Evaluation click here to go to our online application form