Newfoundland and Labrador Mediation Pilot Project in Small Claims Court
Pilot project incorporating interest-based mediation into the small claims process and using articling students as mediators.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Small Claims Court
|May 1999||Mediation plot project initiated|
|2007||Motor vehicle accident cases are no longer mediated|
In May of 1999 a "pilot" project was started in the Small Claims Court to incorporate interest-based mediation into the small claims process...Prior to introducing mediation the procedure was to hold a settlement conference pursuant to Section 10 of the Small Claims Act S.N.L. 1990. The settlement conference was chaired by the Judge and was essentially a first appearance to ensure that the parties were ready for trial. At the settlement conference, the Judge would explore the possibility of settlement with the litigants or make other orders such as default judgments in the event of a non-appearance but there was little opportunity for mediation.
"The hope was that by using mediation fewer cases would go to trial and issues could be resolved at the settlement conference stage" (2008 Annual Report at 35).
We continued with the project this year  despite a shortage of judicial resources which arose as a result of retirements and illness. We had a well attended organizational meeting with the law students in August and started to assign the mediation sessions in September. Not all of the 2008 class have had a chance to mediate as of the writing of this article but all of those who have completed a session reported that they enjoyed the experience and several have asked that they be given another mediation opportunity. The students since 1999 have been exposed to more ADR courses in law school and successive classes have grown much more comfortable in the role since the inception of the program. The settlement rate remains very high and it has been a great benefit to the many unrepresented litigants appearing in small claims court.
Results of the Mediation Process
The student experience compliments the bar admission course and it continues to be a very positive process for litigants, the Court, and the Bar. Interestingly our program has had an international effect. A delegation of judges from Eastern Europe was at the Court for a visit in the fall of 2007. They were extremely interested in our mediation program and we have since heard that they hoped to design a similar program to ours in their home courts utilizing their student Judges.