Early Neutral Evaluation
Early neutral evaluation is a process that often occurs early in the pre-trial stage. A neutral is retained by the parties and counsel to assess the strengths and weaknesses their case and provide assistance in finding common ground in the dispute. This informal process helps each side view the case from the others perspective and offers an evaluation as to how the matter may be decided in court. The recommendations of the neutral are influential but non-binding.
A neutral fact finder conducts an independent investigation into the cause of the disagreement. The fact finder will interview both sides, gather additional information, and then present findings and possible solutions to the parties. The findings and recommendations are not binding but are incorporated into the negotiations between the parties and their counsel. The fact finder usually does not directly participate in the negotiation process.
A mini-trial is a process that usually occurs late in the pre-trial process. Each side will present a limited version of their case before an independent neutral as they would at trial. Also in attendance are the decision-makers from both sides who witness the presentation of trial evidence. Once the trial has concluded, the neutral will not render a decision but instead will work with the decision-makers independently in the hopes of facilitating a settlement.
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