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March 10, 2020

Why do most human rights claims settle?


Many human rights cases settle. A settlement is a negotiated deal between the parties, which resolves the complaint in a manner both parties can live with.

Some cases settle without help from the Human Rights Tribunal, but the Tribunal also does a lot of work to actively encourage settlement. For example, the Tribunal offers a free, half-day mediation session. At mediation, a vice chair of the Tribunal will sit down with the parties and try to broker a deal. A startling 60 percent of cases which go to mediation settle at mediation.
So why do so many human rights cases settle?

First and foremost, the old maxim that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush applies. For Applicants, a settlement means a guaranteed outcome. For Respondents, a settlement amounts to risk management. For both parties, it avoids rolling the dice.

Secondly, if you’re represented by a private lawyer, taking a case to a hearing before the Tribunal can easily cost $15,000-$40,000 for each party. Unlike in civil cases, both parties must always cover their own legal bills. The losing party does not have to pay any of the winner’s legal costs. The prospect of these mounting legal costs can act as a strong incentive for both parties to reach a resolution. And, for some applicants, the total value of their claim could end up being less than the legal costs of going to a full hearing. Thus, there is an incentive on both sides to seriously consider an early settlement

There is no doubt that settlement leaves some people feeling queasy. After all, behind every human rights complaint is an important legal, ethical and moral issue. This is just as true for Respondents as for Applicants.

But the truth is, the way that the Tribunal remedies a human rights breach is by awarding damages. So even if you go through with a hearing and win, the end result will be a payment of damages. Reaching an early settlement can achieve this same result without the time, costs and uncertainty of a hearing. In many cases, this is the best and preferred result for both parties.

Millard & Company specializes in employment and human rights law and has represented parties in many cases before the Tribunal, in court, and in negotiations. Contact us now to see how we can help you with your case.

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