Neutral evaluation is a private process but produces a non-binding written opinion on the issues referred for consideration, rather than a binding decision in arbitration. An independent, authoritative view is given on the matters referred for evaluation – which should reflect the ultimate judgment of the court or tribunal which would have to determine the dispute.
Neutral evaluation has been employed in the Commercial Court for many years. It can be used on all the same sort of disputes as arbitration, as explained above, and at any stage of a dispute.
Neutral evaluation is especially useful where there is a particular point of principle between the parties – whether a legal principle or one of valuation for example – which might help resolve the dispute one way or the other, or at the least move the parties closer together so that a negotiated resolution is possible.
Neutral evaluation can be used to overcome misconceptions about the strength of the parties’ cases, and move the parties closer to settlement, by providing an independent assessment of the relative merits of the competing cases on some or all the issues in dispute.
Neutral evaluation can be in relation to a particular question, or set of questions, or in relation to the case as a whole. It is especially useful to have an evaluation of the case where it turns on a key point of legal or other principle, particular pieces of evidence, or the interpretation of documents, which can make or break the case.
Neutral evaluation is usually done on a documents only basis and is often much faster than arbitration. It can be conducted based on the pleadings and expert reports and witness statements, depending on the nature of the issue.