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The Importance of ADR

View profile for Luigi Bernardis
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In this second article, we will look at the reasons why it is important to consider and respond to a proposal to enter into alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) as a method of resolving the dispute.

As we set out in our first article in this series, ADR methods come in different forms and may involve different methods and techniques and not insignificantly, they may involve different costs and time implications for the parties involved to the dispute.

W have also mentioned that if a party refuses to enter into ADR where an ADR method has been offered by the other party, the court may look unfavourably on this and impose an order on the refusing party to pay additional costs or not to award some or all of the costs incurred as a result of such refusal.

But can the courts force a party to partecipate in ADR? And how much power does the court have over a party’s willingness to engage in ADR?

To answer these questions we need to look at the 2004 case of Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust [2004] EWCA (Civ) 576 (“Halsey”).

The facts of the case are summarised below:

Lilian Halsey brought a claim against the NHS Trust following the death of her husband, who had died after liquid food entered his lungs as a consequence of having been fed through a nasal drip. Negligence on the part of the hospital staff was disputed and an inquest was held, the results of which were inconclusive. The claimant’s solicitors asked for bereavement damages and proposed mediation to settle the matter. The NHS Trust denied liability and as such, decided that mediation was not suitable.

In 2003 the case went to trial and the Lilian Halsey’s claim was dismissed; the NHS Trust won. The claimant’s solicitors asked for costs to be awarded due to the defendant’s refusal to mediate, but this was denied by the judge.

On appeal, the appeal judges upheld the original decision as being correct and stated inter alia as reasons for dismissing the appeal that the claimant “had come nowhere near showing that the Trust acted unreasonably in refusing to agree to a mediation”.

Halsey was the first case the court had to decide on in which a party simply refuses an invitation to engage in ADR. What should the court’s response be in such situations? The factors taken into account by the appeal judges in dismissing the appeal were as follows:

  • The NHS Trust believed it had a strong defence to the claim and had reasonable grounds for that belief notwithstanding that the matter was not unsuitable for mediation;
  • Mediation was at no time suggested or ordered by the court at any point;
  • The NHS Trust believed that the cost of mediation would be disproportionate with regard to the value of the claim;
  • The judges considered that the claimant had not discharged its burden of proving that the NHS Trust’s refusal to mediate was unreasonable; and
  • There was reason to believe that the claimant’s solicitors offers of mediation were based on tactical motivations.

Thus, in Hasley, the court established the following guidelines :

  1. The court should not compel the parties to engage in ADR (as this may risk contravening Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights), but may encourage them to do so in appropriate cases, and the court’s encouragement may be robust;
  2. The court's power to have regard to the parties’ conduct in deciding whether to depart from the general rule that the losing party pays the winning party’s costs, includes the power to deprive the winning party of some or all of its costs on the basis of its unreasonable refusal to engage in ADR; and
  3. For that purpose, the burden is on the unsuccessful party to show that its opponent’s refusal was unreasonable (that is, there is no presumption in favour of ADR).

The court also went on to set out a non-exclusive list of factors that would be relevant to determining whether a refusal to mediate was unreasonable. These include the nature of the dispute, the merits of the case and whether there was a reasonable prospect of success if ADR were pursued, the extent to which other methods of resolution had been attempted and the impacts of costs and/or delay of ADR.

In answer to the questions posed at the beginning of this short article, the court cannot compel the parties to enter into ADR, as compelling a party to do so could mean increased costs, delay and damage to the perceived effectiveness of the ADR process. The refusing party must justify their decision to refuse ADR and the judge should investigate the reasons for the refusal, even if the judge considers that a case is suitable for ADR.

These principles will therefore be applied in determining whether an unreasonable refusal to attempt ADR may result in negative costs sanctions at the end of litigation, and from 2015 this has been reflected in the Civil Procedure Rules:

If proceedings are issued, the parties may be required by the court to provide evidence that ADR has been considered. A party's silence in response to an invitation to participate or a refusal to participate in ADR might be considered unreasonable by the court and could lead to the court ordering that party to pay additional court costs”.


The importance of ADR has been recognised by the European Commission, which in 2008 adopted the Mediation Directive (Directive 2008/52/EC on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters). It applies to all EU Member States except Denmark, which has opted out. ADR is important to the UK government, as evidenced by the inclusion of measures to promote it in the CPR. In addition, Lord Justice Jackson's final report on civil litigation costs (Review of civil litigation costs - final report, December 2009) devoted an entire chapter to ADR.

While Halsey is a landmark decision demonstrating the importance of ADR, case law continues to develop and extend the Halsey principles beyond the scope of that case. The message is clear: litigants who do not take these principles into account do so at their own peril!



Disclaimer: These articles are for information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice. Professional advice should always be obtained before applying any information to particular circumstances.

Esclusione di responsabilità: questi articoli hanno uno scopo puramente informativo e non sono da intendersi come consulenza legale. Prima di applicare qualsiasi informazione a circostanze particolari, è necessario richiedere una consulenza professionale.

Avis de non-responsabilité : Ces articles sont fournis à titre d'information uniquement et ne constituent pas un avis juridique. Il convient toujours d'obtenir un avis professionnel avant d'appliquer toute information à des circonstances particulières.

Descargo de responsabilidad: Estos artículos tienen únicamente fines informativos y no pretenden ser un asesoramiento jurídico. Siempre debe obtenerse asesoramiento profesional antes de aplicar cualquier información a circunstancias particulares.