Q: St Vincent & the Grenadines PM Dr. Ralph Gonsalves recently stated that LIAT was contemplating filing action in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against Caribbean Airways Limited (CAL) over alleged unfair competition. Can ADR be used in this situation?
A: Article 223 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as Article XXIII of the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice, both make provision for the encouragement and facilitation by member governments of the use of arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution processes for the settlement of private commercial disputes among Community members.
The parties can therefore agree to submit this dispute to arbitration, a process in which an independent neutral hears evidence from both sides (in a less formal setting and with more relaxed rules of evidence than in court). The arbitrator decides which side has the more compelling argument and makes an award in favour of the “winning” party. This award is binding.
The parties can also utilize negotiation, facilitation or mediation. The CCJ itself has the power at a case management conference to refer specific issues to mediation or to adjourn the conference if the parties are engaged in an ADR process. It is hoped that with so many dispute resolution mechanisms other than litigation available to these parties, they will set an example to the region and make concerted efforts to resolve their dispute without recourse to the court.