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07 May 2020
Existing dispute resolution proceedings are inevitably experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Where possible, hearings have been delayed or relocated. However, with many lockdowns extended for the foreseeable future, hearings will still need to be held. As such, many arbitral institutions are looking into solutions to these issues, particularly technological ones.
The American Arbitration Association – International Centre for Dispute Resolution (AAA-ICDR) remains active and operational; however, no hearings will take place in AAA-ICDR hearing facilities until at least 1 June 2020. AAA case management staff are in the process of contacting parties and arbitrators to discuss alternative arrangements, including the use of video or teleconferencing or postponements. As of 25 April 2020, the AAA's advice was for parties and arbitrators to "promptly raise with each other any concerns about their participation". It has also barred anyone with symptoms from attending in-person hearings.
The AAA rules permit "when deemed appropriate… the presentation of evidence by alternative means including video conferencing, internet communication, telephonic conferences and means other than an in-person presentation".(1) The AAA boasts of its online video, teleconferencing, internet communication and means other than in-person hearings to facilitate a "full and equal opportunity for all parties to present evidence in a hearing". Therefore, the AAA acknowledges that these are appropriate times to permit (and indeed require) the use of viable alternatives to in-person hearings. The AAA has published a series of guides for conducting virtual hearings and using Zoom and has provided a link to a model order and the procedures for conducting a virtual hearing via videoconference.(2)
For further information on this topic please contact Paul Stothard or Clinton Slogrove at Norton Rose Fulbright by telephone (+971 4 369 6300) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Norton Rose Fulbright website can be accessed at www.nortonrosefulbright.com.
(2) This article focuses on how the AAA-ICDR is reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak. For details on how the courts are responding, please see "COVID-19: approach to court proceedings".
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