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Delaware State Courts
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Guidelines for Superior Court Neutral Assessment
  Neutral Assessment Forms (Forms are sample format; not required Court forms.)
  Neutral Assessment Process
  The Neutral Assessor
  Neutral Assessment Hearing
The ADR provides parties with multiple options to litigation pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 16. Neutral assessment is a process through which the parties may obtain an expert and neutral evaluation of the merits of their respective cases at the very initial stage of a dispute. The assessment intends to restore or facilitate communication between the parties on the basis of an independent analysis and recommendations obtained through a highly specialized neutral analysis of each particular dispute submitted to this process.
Neutral Assessment Process
Compulsory Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) allows the format of ADR to be agreed upon by the parties. If the parties cannot agree on the ADR format, the default format shall be mediation unless otherwise ordered by the Court. Participation in neutral assessment is voluntary. At initial filing, you may select Neutral Assessment on the Civil Case Information Statement (CIS). The neutral assessment outcome is binding only by mutual consent of the parties. Participants use an independent, neutral assessor to help evaluate and assess each side's position and chances for success.
A neutral assessor may be selected from the approved Neutral Assessors Directory by agreement of the parties with a Stipulation signed and filed with the Court not later than ten (10) business days after the civil action is referred to ADR. The Court will select the neutral assessor from the approved list if a stipulation is not filed.
Once neutral assessment has been agreed upon, all parties, including at least one attorney for each represented party must be present at the neutral assessment hearing.
Sanctions may be imposed for failure to participate in good faith.
The neutral assessor should schedule a brief joint teleconference with counsel before the neutral assessment session to discuss matters such as the scheduling, the procedures to be followed, the nature of the case, and which client representatives will attend. An additional brief teleconference may be required after the written Neutral Assessment Hearing Statements are submitted.
The parties are each required to serve upon the neutral assessor a confidential Neutral Assessment Hearing Statement ten (10) days prior to the scheduled neutral assessment hearing.
The Neutral Assessor
A neutral assessor is an impartial, expert professional who hears the controversy between the parties, and who offers a report containing her/his evaluation of the merits of the parties' respective cases as well as a recommendation for a settlement.
Our active neutral assessors are members of the Delaware Bar registered with and approved by the ADR Section of The Delaware State Bar Association in conjunction with the Court.
The neutral assessor will either be appointed by the Court or agreed upon by the parties from the approved Neutral Assessors Directory.
The parties to the neutral assessment pay the neutral assessor directly.
Neutral Assessment Hearing
The parties and their counsel, in a confidential session (unless otherwise stipulated in writing), present summaries of their cases and receive a non-binding evaluation by an experienced neutral attorney with subject matter expertise. Where appropriate, and following completion of the evaluation process, the neutral assessor may also help identify areas of agreement, provide case-planning guidance and, if requested by the parties, offer settlement assistance.
During the course of this process or in the hearing itself, the parties may come close to a negotiated settlement. The neutral assessor may then ask the parties if they would like to try to mediate their dispute. This may happen either before or after the neutral assessor has rendered her/his decision. Of course, all parties would have to agree to the shift in the role of the neutral assessor.
If the parties reach a settlement, the Neutral Assessor's Report must be filed with the Prothonotary. The neutral assessor also must serve copies of the Neutral Assessor's Report to each of the parties.
If the parties do not reach a settlement, the neutral assessor must file with the Prothonotary a Neutral Assessor's Report. The neutral assessor also must serve copies of the Neutral Assessor's Report to each of the parties, advising that the neutral assessment was not successful and the action will proceed as though a written demand for a trial de novo was filed by a party.