Defining "Case Evaluation"

The process of Case Evaluation has well been defined both by the Massachusetts Courts and also by the Massachusetts Bar.

Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18: Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution
"Case evaluation" means a process in which the parties or their attorneys present a summary of their cases to a neutral who renders a non-binding opinion of the settlement value of the case and/or a non-binding prediction of the likely outcome if the case is adjudicated.

Case Evaluation Case evaluation is a non-binding process in which parties to a dispute present the facts and the issues to be determined to an experienced neutral case evaluator. The case evaluator advises the parties on the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions, and assesses how the dispute is likely to be decided by a jury or other adjudicator. The parties may then use this feedback to help reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

TMG's Brad Honoroff writes:
In case evaluation, an experienced neutral, after an appropriate review of a case, offers an opinion of its value, the chances of success in litigation, or sometimes, its chances on appeal, depending upon the question at issue. So, for example, clients have retained our retired judges to offer evaluations of complex business cases, reviews of novel questions of law, and the possible appeal of a Superior Court affirmation of an administrative agency decision. Indeed, sometimes some of us turn to our panel for assistance. So when a mediation team working on a particularly difficult divorce case determined that the parties needed an evaluation of assets and a sense of how a judge might divide those assets, we offered the expertise of one of our judges who, along the way of his distinguished career, had served on the Probate Court bench.

One of the most interesting developments in this case evaluation practice has been the requests to offer evaluations to one side in a case or potential case, rather than the traditional model of offering evaluation to all parties simultaneously. These parties are seeking a neutral’s view of their own litigation position and strategy. That, of course, will usually preclude any other role for the same neutral in the resolution of the case. Sometimes a lawyer needs the guidance for his or her preparation of the case; sometimes a client wants to hear a neutral’s evaluation, and sometimes a lawyer wants the client to hear a neutral’s evaluation. In any case, we are expanding the kinds of roles, deepening the practice, and helping the dispute resolution field’s exploration of a more nuanced delivery of services.