Early neutral evaluation (ENE) is a non-binding Dispute Resolution Method similar to that of Mediation except we provide a probable outcome of the case before entering the web of litigation. Most parties prefer adding an ENE clause in their contracts along with the arbitration clause to get their case valued at a pre-trial stage. The process involves parties (one party or both sides) to a dispute to seek the advice of an attorney about the strength of their cases when presented before the Court of law. An objective evaluation by a well-versed lawyer can sometimes move the parties from their anterior unrealistic positions, or at least provide them with more insight into their cases’ strengths and weaknesses. The parties must have faith in the object of ENE rather than engulf in their egos to litigate rather mitigate the damage which will otherwise be done. It is only the confidence of the parties that determines the success of Early Neutral Evaluation and frivolous litigation can be avoided. Once both parties have an understanding that an ENE can end in a compromise based on the legal precedents on the facts, the parties in commercial, civil or family matters, etc do prefer referring the matter to ENE.
Some Examples of ENE could be:
(1) Social ENE: It includes family, matrimonial or custody issues
(2) Financial ENE: It is used for division and property disputes
(3) Contractual ENE: involving small business transactions.
The evaluator requests one of the parties to present the claims or defence along with substantial evidence. Since it is not a formal court proceeding, it’s an opportunity for parties to settle the matter and discuss the issues of concern before the evaluator. The Evaluator writes the arguments presented and after thoroughly listening to both the parties the Evaluator informs the parties of their stand in accordance with law, if presented before the Court or Arbitrator. The Evaluator asks the parties to discuss the issues and disagreements and through this discussion, the parties may arrive at a conclusion and resolve their issues. It would be highly beneficial where they don’t have to go to court. If only some things are resolved, then the Evaluator tells the court the agreements about those things. The rest has to be decided by the court. If no agreements are made, everything has to be decided in court. ENE can save valuable time and money and is a safe setting to negotiate with the other party.
Further, due to Covid-19, several companies are resorting to evaluation of their case before getting into unnecessary litigation and spoil relationships. Some of the common cases evaluated are landlord-tenant disputes, delay in payments in business transactions, employment issues, cancellation of events, delay in EMIs and delay in other business commitments. In these situations, a party might put its ego before the law to fight a lost case. Therefore, it is essential that you get your case evaluated before litigating.
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