Bahamians' interest in arbitration as a method for resolving disputes has grown in the past few years. Arbitration is an alternative method of dispute resolution outside the court system. Instead of filing a lawsuit and appearing in court before a judge, people who choose to arbitrate present their positions on legal issues to a neutral person in an informal setting.
Arbitration allows the parties to choose many things they cannot choose in court: the arbitrator, often the venue in which the arbitration will take place, the time for and methods of gathering evidence, and more. The parties often use an arbitrator who is a retired judge or experienced attorney, yet arbitration can be less expensive than filing a lawsuit and participating in a court trial.
The Arbitration Act 2009 and Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 2009 govern arbitration agreements and proceedings in The Bahamas. For example, the Arbitration Act lists powers of an arbitrator and allows courts to refer certain matters to a referee (similar to an arbitrator). The Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act explains how foreign arbitral award are treated in The Bahamas.
Parties to an arbitration may apply to a court for relief in certain situations:
- To ask the court to appoint an arbitrator when the parties cannot agree on one
- To obtain evidence from witnesses
- To terminate the services of an arbitrator if needed
- To apply interim relief measures as directed in an arbitrator's ruling
- To enforce an arbitral award
- To challenge an arbitral award because of serious irregularity.
Although the courts have some powers relating to arbitration, most arbitral proceedings occur outside a court's purview entirely. Typically, parties agree in a contract or other legally recognized document that any disputes between them will be submitted to arbitration. The contract may specify how many arbitrators to use, where to request arbitration, and which laws the arbitrator should follow in reaching a decision.
Like mediation, many Bahamians are quickly learning that arbitration can be a powerful tool for resolving disputes. If you are interested in using arbitration, seek out an arbitration provider organization or contact individual arbitrators to request their services.
To find out more about arbitration, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.