Thousands of Court Cases Delayed During COVID-19
…but Help Is Available
June 30, 2020
VANCOUVER – The British Columbia Commercial Arbitration Centre (BCICAC) has remained fully functioning with no delays for service despite social distancing measures implemented in British Columbia, and remains available to help address the backlog of 4,000 cases recently referred to by the Chief Justice of British Columbia Supreme Court.
Two weeks ago, Chief Justice Hinkson said the Courts were facing a formidable challenge in playing “catch-up” with the cases which have been adjourned, including 2,400 civil matters, 1,000 family law matters and 600 criminal cases.
“We are uniquely positioned to assist with the delayed civil cases,” notes Barry Penner, QC, Managing Director of BCICAC. “Arbitration has become an increasingly accepted alternative to the time-consuming and expensive court process, but there is still a tremendous opportunity for more lawyers and businesses to utilize this option.”
While matters dealt with in Court are generally open to the public, arbitration matters are kept private which can be helpful for businesses operating in a competitive environment. Parties to an arbitration can shape the process themselves, including choosing the procedural rules and selecting a knowledgeable arbitrator, who can in essence serve as a private judge. BCICAC maintains a roster of pre-approved arbitrators with expertise relevant to many different areas of business, such as the construction and energy industry.
“Even if a case has been commenced in the courts, the parties can agree to divert their dispute to arbitration in order to have it resolved,” said Penner. “In many instances, it turns out to be a much faster alternative. On average, our cases are resolved in 10 months whereas according to the World Bank, a typical contract dispute takes 910 days or around 30 months in Canada’s court system.”
Arbitration proceedings offer the flexibility to accommodate social distancing measures without suspending resolution of disputes. Hearings can and have been conducted by teleconference, videoconference or in writing. Parties considering submitting pending litigation matters to arbitration have the ability to preserve appeal rights. BCICAC’s domestic commercial rules offer the ability to opt into an appeal process internal to BCICAC. Alternatively, parties may agree in their arbitration agreement to preserve the appeal rights they would have had if the dispute had been litigated.