Early Neutral Evaluation
Offering affordable & professional early neutral evaluation services in Pittsburgh
Mr. Betts also serves as the neutral in early neutral evaluations. ENE is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is being used more frequently by parties in an effort to settle their disputes in the early stages of the litigation process. Like its cousin mediation, ENE is non-binding. Although there are variations, ENE generally consists of the attorneys for each party making presentations summarizing the anticipated evidence and the applicable legal principles. At that point, the neutral, rather than facilitating settlement discussions between the parties, will provide the parties with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their positions and a recommended framework for resolving the dispute.
ENE is recognized by Rule 16.2.C of the Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania as one of the three acceptable options for parties to elect in satisfying their obligation to participate in the Court’s ADR process. (The other two options are mediation and arbitration.) Section 4.1 of the Court’s ADR Policies and Procedures Manual describes ENE as follows:
"In Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) the parties and their counsel, in a confidential session, make compact presentations of their claims and defenses, including key evidence as developed at that juncture, and receive a non-binding evaluation by an experienced neutral lawyer, selected by the parties, with subject matter expertise. The evaluator also helps identify areas of agreement, offers case-planning suggestion and, if requested by the parties, settlement assistance."
When an ENE is held under the auspices of the Western District of Pennsylvania’s ADR process, the parties are required to submit to the neutral, and serve other parties with, written position statements. The statements must include various required items of information about the issues in the case, the parties’ positions and the history of any settlement negotiations.
The discussions during the ENE session are confidential. The neutral, however, is required to file a report with the Court within five days after the session indicating whether the case has been resolved or, if not, whether a follow-up session has been scheduled and whether the parties have agreed to any stipulations.