The Mediation Act 2017 recently entered into force. The act's objective is to promote mediation as an attractive alternative to court proceedings, in terms of time, cost, resources and the avoidance of acrimony. Although mediation may not be suitable for all disputes, the act provides a platform for parties to resolve their difficulties without commencing litigation where appropriate (albeit certain classes of case are excluded from its scope).
The minister for justice and equality recently published the long-awaited Mediation Bill 2017. The bill's underlying objective is to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings. Doing so should result in reduced legal costs, faster resolution of disputes and a reduction in the stress and acrimony that can sometimes accompany court proceedings.
The Law Reform Commission has issued its Report on Alternative Dispute Resolution, specifically focusing on mediation and conciliation. It remains to be seen how many of the report's recommendations will be adopted, although it is likely that many – if not all – will eventually find their way onto the statute books in some form, particularly since a draft Mediation and Conciliation Bill is annexed to the report.
The High Court recently stressed that there are strong public policy considerations in favour of enforcing arbitration awards and that this is no less so in the case of New York Convention awards. However, this leaning in favour of enforcement must not stand in the way of refusal where this is required as matter of public policy.
The Irish courts have traditionally been very reluctant to interfere with the arbitration process. The recent decision in GLC Construction Limited v County Council of the County of Laois is an example of a case where the court felt justified in referring an arbitrator's award back to the arbitrator for reconsideration following an application by the plaintiff to the High Court for such an order.
In a recent case the court considered the issues to which it should have regard in assessing whether to interfere with an arbitral award. The award was upheld as no mistake of law appeared on the face of the award, the arbitrator had conducted himself correctly within the terms of his appointment, and any perceived bias should have been asserted during the course of the arbitration.
A recent decision suggests that it is not only parties to an arbitration agreement who will be bound to adhere to it; so too will those who have agreed to a defined mechanism of alternative dispute resolution. This is in line with the tradition of the Irish courts in supporting arbitration and not interfering with the arbitration process except where this is necessary.
The domestic Arbitration Act obliges a court to stay court proceedings initiated by any party to an arbitration agreement, unless it is satisfied that the agreement is null and void. The act has since been amended to state that this provision does not prevent any party to an arbitration agreement from bringing civil proceedings under the small claims procedure of the district court.
The Arbitration Act 1980 obliges the court to stay any litigation proceedings where there is an arbitration agreement. The unfortunate effect of this provision is that it may result in postponing, until the arbitration proceedings have been concluded, all other related claims between the parties or involving third parties which are not subject to the arbitration agreement.
The High Court recently blocked arbitral proceedings that aimed to determine the amount of compensation to which a landowner was entitled under a compulsory purchase order, because an independent tribunal of enquiry was investigating allegations of fraud in the matter.
A recent High Court decision calls into question the application of arbitration clauses in Ireland where the claimant is a child. The judge ruled that a minor's claim should be determined by the courts and not by arbitration.
If an arbitrator is in doubt about the law, he is empowered to refer the issue of law in the form of a special case for the decision of the High Court. He is also obliged to state a case to the High Court on a point of law at the request of one of the parties during the proceedings. This update examines three cases that centre on this issue.
The American Arbitration Association has opened its second International Centre for Dispute Resolution office in Dublin. It chose Dublin as the location for its new office because of Ireland's vibrant economy, its easy access to other European centres and because Irish law has long supported the arbitration process.
The applicant in a recent arbitration was denied a fair hearing because of a procedural mishap. The High Court found that the possible injustice that the applicant might suffer should the arbitral award stand exceeded any risk of detriment to the respondent. The award was thus remitted to the arbitrator for reconsideration.
Including: Legislative Framework; Courts' Attitude to Arbitration; Domestic Arbitration; International Arbitration
Amendments to Irish legislation which end the High Court's involvement in international arbitration, together with the creation of a new International Arbitration Centre in Dublin, should help to make Ireland a more attractive venue for commercial arbitration.