Commercial disputes – how best to get an early conclusion in the face of COVID-19
The government has responded quickly and decisively to the global threat posed by COVID-19 and that has extended to the operation of the court system. Emergency legislation has been put in place to preserve businesses whether it be to prevent a landlord forfeiting its lease or to prevent a creditor winding up that business for unpaid debts.
The court system is grinding to a halt for obvious reasons. They are not set up for remote justice over the internet. All but the most urgent hearings are being adjourned.
So if you are a creditor with an unpaid debt or perhaps a party to a commercial contract dispute, do you have to accept there is nothing you can do about it for several months?
One possible solution, if all parties are willing to explore it, is to mediate remotely using software such as Zoom. A number of such mediations have already occurred last week and this week. The feedback is very positive. A leading mediator expressed the view that it is 95% as successful as face to face mediation.
If the alternative is to mothball the dispute for several months there is probably little to lose.