Landmark decision for Dispute Resolution from the Court of Appeal
- AuthorAndrew Meech
In a groundbreaking decision following the recent case of Churchill vs Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council (2023), the Court of Appeal has transformed the landscape of court-involved dispute resolution.
Andrew Meech, Director and Joint Head of Commercial Litigation, at JCP Solicitors, explains how this came to pass - and why it marks a significant change.
“This important shift in legal precedent affirms the court's authority to order parties engaged in court proceedings to participate in a 'non-court-based dispute resolution process'.
“Until now, the court has not had power to order parties to try Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This lack of power meant the court could not mandate whether or not people were obliged to take part in ADR - meaning that many cases proceeded to a trial when ADR may have been successful.
“The decision following Churchill vs Merthyr Tydfil builds upon the influential case of Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS (2004), which established the court's ability to impose cost sanctions on a party unreasonably rejecting ADR. While Halsey paved the way for a cultural shift towards embracing ADR, it did not explicitly grant the court the power to mandate parties to engage in alternative resolution measures.
“In the wake of the Churchill case, it is now confirmed that the court does possess the lawful authority to order a stay, facilitating non-court-based dispute resolution. Overall, this landmark judgment presents a clear endorsement for the expanded use of mediation and other non-court-based dispute resolution processes.
“It’s worth noting that the newfound power does come with crucial safeguards to ensure a fair trial. The court's order must pursue a legitimate aim, such as resolving the dispute, and be proportionate to that objective.
“At JCP Solicitors, we welcome this development: we recommend mediation as much as we can for our clients, and see this change as a positive step towards more effective and efficient dispute resolution mechanisms.”