A neutral reviews pertinent materials, conducts a conference and listens to an abbreviated presentation of a case. The neutral then issues an advisory opinion on the factual, legal and damage matters in dispute. The neutral does not attempt to facilitate settlement since the purpose of this procedure is to provide the parties with the comments from a respected neutral to be utilized by them in their further negotiations. This technique is frequently utilized where there is a wide disparity between the parties on liability or damage issues.
A settlement conference is the traditional dispute resolution technique used by the Court. Unlike mediation, it is usually attended by counsel only and conducted in summary fashion without any participation by the parties. In a settlement conference, the neutral has evaluative responsibility and will generally provide the parties with the neutral’s overall evaluation of the case, including a suggested settlement recommendation.
DRI assists the parties by making an informal inquiry into the facts of a particular dispute. This is generally employed in cases submitted before litigation has been instituted. The fact-finder meets with the parties to the dispute, interviews key witnesses, and reviews important documents. Unlike depositions, these interviews are conducted in an informal, non-adversarial manner. Thereafter, the fact-finder will either attempt to resolve the dispute, assist the parties in selecting a process for resolution, or provide the requesting entity with a confidential report. This procedure is frequently utilized for intra-entity disputes. DRI has also been called upon to conduct an impartial investigation and submit a non-binding neutral report that frequently leads to settlement.
The need frequently arises for a hearing officer to preside over administrative proceedings or other types of hearings conducted outside the judicial system. Such hearings include contractually mandated due process proceedings, medical coverage disputes, employment disputes and other similar adjudicatory processes that are contractually specified to protect an aggrieved party. Depending on the nature of the proceeding, the hearing officer may serve in an adjudicative capacity or as a presiding officer vested only with the responsibility of ensuring an orderly and fair hearing.
Discovery is routinely recognized as the major abuse of litigation. The cost in dollars and, increasingly more often, the cost of business interference of discovery in complex and multi-party cases can be exorbitant. Competent counsel seeking to reduce such prohibitive expenses have turned to DRI to decide or mediate discovery disputes at key points during the pendency of the litigation. Discovery disputes are resolved in this way, expeditiously and efficiently resulting in substantial savings of dollars and time.