Thursday, March 29, 2012

STB seeks less formal litigation, more mediation

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The Surface Transportation Board has initiated proposals to encourage more mediation and arbitration for the resolution of issues coming before the Board.

"While the Board has existing procedures in place for both mediation and arbitration, the proposed rules represent an initiative to refine and expand those rules," said STB on Thursday as it announced it was seeking public moment on its proposals "in an effort to promote greater use of alternative dispute resolution procedures for a wide range of issues. The Board believes that it will be to the mutual benefit of all stakeholders with business before the STB to reduce time and expense devoted to more formal litigation, and may provide enhanced access to the Board as well, particularly in matters involving relatively small disputes."

STB paid the new rules "would require parties to mediate certain matters, and would simplify and clarify its current rules for voluntary mediation."

Also proposed is a new program "in which shippers and carriers could voluntarily agree to arbitrate certain routine disputes that come before the Board. The Board's mediation proposals would provide more rapid resolution of certain controversies, and at lower cost, through the mutual agreement of involved parties. The arbitration proposal similarly would involve less time  and lower costs than current, formal adjudicatory procedures."

"The more often we can get parties to settle disputes before formal action, the more often we can save parties the cost, time and uncertainty of that formal action," STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott said. "And both parties walk away from the process as winners."

The Assessment of Mediation and Arbitration Procedures, EP 699, is available for viewing and downloading at the Board's website at www.stb.dot.gov.