A new voluntary arbitration procedure for new cases is coming to the Delaware Court of Chancery. It will provide a new streamlined, "lightening fast" litigation timetable for the adjudication of certain types of business disputes that fit within the parameters of the new rules. Highlights of the new arbitration rules were presented last month by Chancellor Chandler to the Delaware Bar and are available here. This new procedure is voluntary and gives new meaning to the term "alacrity". It is designed to provide another option to litigants seeking expedited or summary proceedings for certain business disputes that fit the new "streamlined" process provided for in the new rules that will become effective on February 1, 2010. The actual new rules are available here.  Key points about the new procedure and rules include the following:

  • As a prerequisite for cases seeking money damages, the amount in controversy must exceed one million dollars.
  • The arbitrator will be a permanent sitting member of the Court.
  • A preliminary conference will be scheduled within 10 days of the commencement of the case to address procedural and substantive aspects of the case.
  • The statutory authority for the parties to consent to this procedure is 10 Del. C. Section 349.
  • The arbitration hearing will generally "occur no later than 90 days following receipt of the petition". See Del. Ch. Ct. R. 97(c).
  • The arbitration proceedings will be confidential.
  • Discovery and motion practice are expected to be limited.
  • Appeals will be directly to the Delaware Supreme Court
  • Filing and hearing fees are as follows: $12,000 for filing the petition, and $6,000 for each day of arbitration (to be shared by the parties). See Order of Jan. 4, 2010 establishing fee schedule here.

This new "rocket docket" allows for an exciting and creative method to obtain an adjudication from a member of the Court at "lightening speed" for the right type of case.

UPDATE: Professor Larry Ribstein comments on the new rules here. The Sunday News Journal in Wilmington had an article about the new arb rules on March 7, 2010 here.