The Court of Appeal confirms that the courts can compel parties to engage in ADR

The Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, holding for the first time that the court can lawfully stay proceedings for, or order, parties to engage in a “non-court-based dispute resolution process”.

On November 29th, 2023, the Court of Appeal issued a ruling in the case of Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, establishing a significant legal precedent. For the first time, the court affirmed its authority to either pause ongoing legal proceedings or require parties to participate in alternative dispute resolution methods (ADR) outside of court, subject to certain conditions.

This landmark decision clarifies and confirms the court’s ability to enforce ADR, marking a notable shift from previous understandings of legal precedent. It’s expected to have far-reaching implications. However, the ruling also raises new questions about the specific circumstances and criteria under which the court will utilize this power and the outcomes it might yield.

The Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said that they “welcomes this important judgment, which has made clear the parameters governing when parties can be required to enter into a non-court based dispute resolution process before proceeding with a civil claim”.

He continued:

“The Law Society strongly believes that non-court based dispute resolution will usually be in the best interests of the parties, but has always had real reservations about a blanket rule making any form of such process mandatory.

This judgment reflects those reservations in that it recognises that in some circumstances it may be contrary to a party’s right of access to the courts to compel them to engage in a non-court based dispute resolution process.

We welcome the Court’s clear guidance as to when and how judges should intervene to encourage non-court based resolution of disputes.”

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