The ADR Unit/Professional Group
The Unit is the main hub for the administration of all cases referred to the LMDC, from the High Court or Magistrate Court of Lagos State, Courts of other jurisdictions outside Lagos State, Federal Courts, Private Persons, Corporations, public institutions and dispute resolution organizations.
ADR Techniques Employed by the LMDC
LMDC offers Mediation, Arbitration, and Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) services to disputants. It also offers a number of hybrid processes. The main focus of the LMDC is Commercial Dispute Resolution and it handles predominantly civil cases. The subject matter of cases administered at the LMDC includes Contract, Land, Property, Employment, defamation and Libel, Landlord and Tenant, Matrimonial, Causes, Telecoms, Maritime, Aviation, Energy, Banking, Insurance, Probate and Estate and other issues in dispute.
• Arbitration: a forum for the participants to present legal arguments and evidence to a third party, who will arrive at a binding decision called an ‘award’.
• Mediation: an informal and confidential process in which a neutral third party helps disputants reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
• Early Neutral Evaluation: an impartial assessment of a case’s strength and weaknesses, with the evaluator providing an advisory opinion as to settlement value and merit, and/or will assist the parties in settlement negotiations
• Hybrid ADR Processes:
These consist of a mix of two or more ADR processes in resolving a single dispute. It could be Med-Arb (Mediation - Arbitration) which describes a process which commences with Mediation and continues as Arbitration if there are some issues left unresolved after Mediation or when the parties need a higher authority to decide some issues for them.
Overview of the Mediation Process
At the LMDC, the Mediation process comprises five major stages namely, Case Initiation, Intake Screening, Pre-Session, Mediation Session, and Closure stages.
Stage 1 - Case Initiation Stage
A matter may be initiated at the LMDC in either of three ways:
Any party to a dispute may initiate Mediation, Arbitration, Early Neutral Evaluation or any other ADR service by visiting the LMDC or writing to its Director. Matters from other reputable ADR organizations may be filed at the LMDC for settlement.
The Presiding Judge in a matter already in litigation or in the course of a pre-trial conference may in appropriate circumstances refer parties to the LMDC. Apart from the High Court of Lagos State matters may be referred to the LMDC from the Federal High Courts or Courts of other jurisdictions outside Lagos.
The LMDC through the Director may, in circumstances where the public interest or the interest of the disputing parties so demand, approach the parties with a view to assisting in the resolution of their dispute.
Every civil suit filed in the High Court of Lagos State is screened for ADR amenability and put on the ADR Track if it is found suitable.
Stage 2 -Intake Screening Stage
The LMDC Registrar evaluates the matter for case classification and Intake Screening. This involves a careful study of the parties Statement of Issues and Statement in Response, to determine the nature of the claim, and the underlying interests as well as the appropriate "door" for possible resolution.
Stage 3 - Pre-Session Stage
The Case Manager may upon the approval of the Registrar convene a Pre-Session Meeting where s/he informs the parties of the “door” recommended for the possible resolution of the matter, the process, the conduct of the parties and their counsel at the sessions. The Neutral, (Mediator, Arbitrator or Neutral Evaluator) considered suitable for the case is recommended by the Registrar from the LMDC Panel of Neutrals to assist in resolving the dispute. A date for the session is scheduled and an ADR Session Notice is subsequently sent to the parties, after the Neutral has completed the Disclosure Form, clarifying s/his relationship with either of the disputing parties.
Where a party, after being served with the notice of the matter involving him/her, refuses to submit within the stipulated time to Mediation, the Case Manager shall notify the ADR Judge who may then order the recalcitrant party to appear before him and afterward make requisite orders and give necessary directives.
Stage 4 - Mediation Session Stage
The Mediation session usually begins with an initial joint meeting between the parties and the Mediator. At this meeting, the procedures and ground rules covering the mediation process, order of presentation, decorum, use of caucuses and confidentiality at the proceedings are presented. The role of the mediator is to assist parties in communicating thus moving beyond positions to explore possible solutions or settlements. The mediator does not give a formal evaluation, but rather prompts the parties to assess their relative interests and positions and to evaluate their own situations through the exchange of information, ideas, and alternatives for settlement.
After these preliminaries, each party describes how he/she views the dispute. The referring party discusses his/her understanding of the issues, the facts surrounding the dispute, reliefs sought and why. The other party responds by making similar presentations to the Mediator.
After a period of clarification and deliberation, the Mediator may meet each party privately (caucuses) to explore resolution options, in confidence. Several separate caucuses may take place. During each caucus, the Mediator clarifies each party's version of the facts, priorities, positions, underlying interests and explores alternative solutions, and seeks possible trade-offs. The Mediator does not serve as an advocate but as an "agent of reality".
As soon as there is a semblance of common ground, a joint session may be convened. Here, the Mediator narrows the differences between the parties; emphasizes the progress made and formalizes offers to gain an agreement. The Terms of Settlement reached are reduced into writing and signed by the parties.
Stage 5 - The Closure Stage
If a settlement of the dispute is reached, it shall be reduced to writing and signed by the parties, the Neutral and/or counsel. In Court-referred matters, the Terms of Settlement signed by the parties is sent back to the referral judge, who adopts same as a consent judgment of his/her court. In Walk-In matters, the Terms of Settlement is signed by the parties and endorsed by the ADR Judge and it becomes a consent judgment of the High Court of Lagos State. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, a report is sent to the referral judge in Court referred matters.
Overview of the Arbitration Session
Any of the parties to a contract may commence an Arbitration procedure where an Arbitration clause is contained in their agreement, and a dispute arises in regard to that agreement.
Where there is no prior agreement/clause in the parties' agreement and the parties' desire is to proceed to Arbitration, Consent to Arbitration (Form 10) and a Submission Agreement shall be forwarded to the parties for their signature.
An Arbitration session begins with a preliminary meeting with all parties in attendance. At this meeting, a number of issues will be determined which include; the anticipated length of time for the whole process, the mode of arbitration (by hearing or documentation) and other pertinent procedural issues. Sequel to this, pleadings will be filed, together with all necessary documents.
Upon conclusion of the Arbitration proceedings, an Award will be given by the Arbitrator. The Award is given within a period not exceeding 90days after completion of the hearing. The Arbitration proceeding is in accordance with the LMDC Arbitration Rules.
Neutral Evaluation Session
Neutral Evaluation Proceedings are initiated to guide the parties towards resolution. The process is mostly adopted prior to or in the course of a Mediation session with a view to assisting the parties in their negotiation. Neutral Evaluation is conducted by a retired or serving Judge, seasoned lawyer of repute or an expert in a particular field.
If parties fail to reach a settlement of any or all of the issues in a Mediation proceeding, they may submit such issue(s) to advisory arbitration, binding arbitration or any other ADR process considered suitable
Settlements reached by parties at the LMDC are enforceable under Section 26 of the LMDC Law which provides that upon the completion of an ADR proceeding, settlement agreements which are duly signed by the parties shall be enforceable as a contract between the parties and when such agreements are further endorsed by an ADR Judge or any other person as directed by the Chief Judge, it shall be deemed to be enforceable as a consent judgment of the High Court of Lagos State.
Order 39, rule 4 (3) of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012 also states that an Award made by an arbitrator or a decision reached, the Multi-Door Courthouse may by leave of a Judge be enforced in the same manner as a judgment or order of Court. With regards to Arbitration hearings, the Arbitrator or Arbitral Tribunal shall draw up an Award which is automatically enforceable by the courts.
LMDC offers Mediation, Arbitration and Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) services to disputants. It also offers a number of hybrid processes like Med-Arb (Mediation–Arbitration) and Arb-Med (Arbitration– Mediation). The main focus of the LMDC is Commercial Dispute Resolution and it handles predominantly civil cases. The subject matter of cases administered at the LMDC include: Contract, Land, Property, Employment, defamation and Libel, Landlord and Tenant, Matrimonial Causes, Telecoms, Maritime, Aviation, Energy, Banking, Insurance, Probate and Estate and other issues in dispute.