Mini-Trials in Alberta
AbstractThe Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has been offering the mini-trial, a specialized dispute resolution process, to litigants and the bar for the last four years. The impetus for this move was the length and time often involved in litigation. The attraction of the mini-trial is that it is a method of expediting dispute resolution and that the costs associated with it are considerably less than those for a regular trial. The author outlines the history of the mini-trial, explaining how it developed in the U.S. as a private dispute resolution mechanism. The Alberta mini-trial is essentially an expanded pre-trial procedure, and is offered by the Court at no cost to participants. There is no rigid, formal procedure to the Alberta mini-trial, and its great strength is in fact flexibility and informality. The only requirement the Court has is that the actual parties must be present for the arguments and at the end of the mini-trial, when the judge gives his or her opinion. The author outlines the key elements of the mini-trial, as they have evolved to date, including the role of the judge and the nature of the actual process. The mini-trial has been enormously successful at encouraging settlements, which have followed or resulted from the mini-trial in over 90 percent of cases. Additionally, both counsel and clients appear to be quite pleased with the process. Despite this success, however, it should be noted that the mini-trial may not be appropriate in all cases. The author describes the types of cases to which the mini-trial both is and is not well-suited. He offers a case study, of a mini-trial over which he presided. This mini-trial was successful and led to a settlement. In closing, the author provides information to interested counsel and parties as to how and when they can access the mini-trial. The article closes with a recommendation that mini-trials always be considered as an option in lawsuits.
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