Court ruling paves the way for mediation to be imposed on disputing parties

Jeremy Ferris

Partner & CEDR Accredited Mediator

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December 12, 2023

A hotly anticipated ruling by the Court of Appeal has now been handed down in the case of Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, which could see disputing parties forced to use out of court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes such as mediation.

In a judgment handed down on 29 November 2023, the Court of Appeal ruled that courts have the power to order the disputing parties to engage in ADR, a process by which complaints are settled outside the court system with the assistance of an impartial dispute resolution body.

The case concerned a claim brought by Mr Churchill against Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council for damages arising from the encroachment of invasive Japanese Knotweed onto his property from land owned by the Council. The Council denied liability and effectively sought to oblige Mr Churchill to exhaust the council’s internal complaints procedure before further litigation could commence.

Jeremy Ferris is a Partner with Furley Page solicitors’ highly regarded Dispute Resolution team and an Accredited Mediator with the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). He said: “The Court of Appeal ruling held that courts will have the power to stay proceedings and encourage, or even in exceptional cases mandate, parties to use ADR. Crucially this will be the case even if the parties are unwilling to participate in ADR processes such as mediation.

“The decision integrates mediation into the civil justice system and has significant and far-reaching implications for civil litigation in England and Wales. It empowers the courts to play a far more proactive role in encouraging and at times mandating ADR in appropriate cases.

“This is likely to have a lasting impact on the landscape of civil litigation and the conduct of cases, potentially leading to a more streamlined and cost-effective approach to resolving disputes.”

Furley Page offers civil and commercial mediation services which can help preserve personal and business relationships, with the focus on developing effective communication between each party and finding solutions that work for all. Mediation allows the parties to stay in control and, unlike the court system, parties can decide how they want to resolve the dispute, with either side able to refuse an outcome they are unhappy with. Generally mediation is much quicker and much less expensive than going to court, and provides a safe, supportive and confidential way of resolving disagreements.

For further information about mediation and alternative dispute resolution, please contact Jeremy Ferris, Partner and CEDR Accredited Mediator on 01227 763939.