In January, Manhattan’s Civil Court launched an online dispute resolution (ODR) pilot program for small claims cases. The program is designed to assist self-represented parties and eligible cases include disputes regarding the purchase or sale of goods or services up to $10,000. Cases meeting these criteria will automatically be referred to the program and then be screened for eligibility. If eligible, parties will have the opportunity to negotiate through the platform to resolve their dispute.
New York’s new program uses the Matterhorn platform and is free for parties. In a press release for the program, the court indicates that the new ODR platform will lead parties through an “automated double-blind bidding process, in which each party makes an offer that may only be disclosed after both offers match [and] depending on the outcome.” In this helpful video, the court explains what this process looks like in practice. As the video explains, once on the platform, both parties will be invited to submit a proposed settlement amount. In the example from the video, if one party submits a settlement amount for $800 and the other party presents a settlement amount for $200, then the program will use the overlap between these two amounts and split the difference in half (ex: $500). From there, the platform will present this amount to the parties as a proposed solution. If the parties are able to agree to the proposed amount, the platform will then guide the parties through negotiating the other terms of the settlement.
In the event parties are unable to reach an agreement, the ODR platform will then present several other resolution options to the parties. First, the platform will give parties the opportunity to communicate with each other through a chat interface to see if they are able to reach a settlement. Second, if the parties are still unable to reach agreement, they will be given the option to work with a mediator. Finally, if the parties do not want to proceed with chat and mediation, or were unable to reach an agreement in mediation, parties will then have the option to proceed to court. For additional information about the program, visit the program’s website or contact the Civil Court of the City of New York by phone at 646-386-5484.