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Voluntary mediation becoming popular option to courts: CICMA/CIAA Conference


February 1, 2005   by Canadian Underwriter


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Voluntary mediation is becoming an attractive alternative to trial in many insurance-related cases, a panel of lawyers told the Joint Conference sponsored by the Canadian Insurance Claims Managers Association (CICMA) and Canadian Independent Adjusters Association (CIAA), Tuesday in Toronto.
The legal panel offered a “Cross Canada Claims Check Up”, giving delegates the status of various legal developments, including auto reform, from B.C. to Newfoundland.
On the subject of mediation, “voluntary mediation is becoming ever more popular”, says Kevin Carroll, of Barrie, Ontario firm Carroll Heyd Chown. “I see it as a good tool”, particularly as compared with mandatory mediation, he adds. Carroll says voluntary mediation probably has about a 75% success rate in his experience, but he did not find mandatory mediation was often successful, largely because mediators did not demonstrate a thorough knowledge of insurance issues. “Your chances for resolution were remote,” he comments.
Other speakers also favored voluntary mediation. Nancy Murray of Halifax-based Stewart McKelvey says mediation has become very popular in her province, specifically to deal with very complex cases. However, with few mediators located in the province, she has found success bringing in mediators from Toronto. Murray notes that private mediation may be an attractive alternative to court mediation, where a judge renders an opinion as to what to potential outcome of the case will be. “I think judges shouldn’t be doing mediation one day and trial the next,” she says of this potential conflict.
St. Johns, Newfoundland-based lawyer William Goodridge, also of Stewart McKelvey, says his province offers litigants the chance to apply for “forced mediation” but he has not seen many people taking this option. Generally, voluntary mediation has proven more popular, and he adds, this option has resulted in streamlining the legal process by removing the glut of cases going to trial. “The trial wait list, which was probably 18 months wait 10 years ago, is probably three months now.”