The Bahamian legal system is based on the English common law, supplemented by legislation promulgated by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Court proceedings in The Bahamas are conducted through an adversarial system of civil procedure. Legal arguments are made by a combination of oral and written submissions, and Bahamian courts can only make decisions on issues which are in dispute.
Magistrates’ courts hear minor criminal and civil cases.
The Industrial Tribunal has the power to hear and determine trade disputes, register industrial agreements, hear and determine matters relating to the registration of such agreements, make orders or awards, and award compensation on complaints brought before it in accordance with the Industrial Relations Act of 1970.
The Supreme Court is the second highest court in The Bahamas. It has unlimited jurisdiction in general civil and criminal matters.
The Court of Appeal is the highest resident tribunal in The Bahamas. It has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgments, orders and sentences made by the Supreme Court.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, England is the final appellate court of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council may be made from decisions of the Court of Appeal in all matters where an appeal is permissible.
Court proceedings in The Bahamas are generally open to the public, although the open justice principle is not absolute. In circumstances where it is necessary to avoid prejudice to the administration of justice, courts can order that proceedings be heard in camera (in private).
In accordance with Order 60, rule 3 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, any person can search, inspect and take a copy of any originating process, judgment, order made by the court and, with the leave of the court, any other documents. However, applications can be made to the court to seal court records or anonymise judgments to protect confidential information from public disclosure.
Lawyers entitled to practice in The Bahamas are categorised as “counsel and attorney” and are officers of the Supreme Court. The statutory qualification for admission to practice in The Bahamas is:
Before being admitted to practice, applicants who meet requirement (i), (ii) or (iii) above must also serve a period of “pupilage” for 12 months under the tutelage of a lawyer in actual practice in The Bahamas. All applicants for admission to practice must be Bahamian citizens and must not have been disqualified or suspended from practice in the courts of any place outside The Bahamas.
The Bar Council may agree to the special admission of a person who is not a Bahamian citizen for the purpose of conducting specific legal proceedings, so long as the person is qualified as above. Also, a non-Bahamian citizen entitled to practice before a court of unlimited jurisdiction in any country may become a "registered associate" and agent of a Bahamian counsel and attorney.
There is no absolute prohibition of litigation funding by a third party. However, the activity of litigation funding is significantly restricted by the common law principles governing the torts of champerty and maintenance, which still apply in The Bahamas. Those principles attempt to prevent officious or wanton intervention in the litigation of others, in which the intermeddler has no interest whatsoever, and where the assistance which he or she renders to the other party is without justification or excuse.
Until there are legislative provisions which address whether litigation funding is permitted, the developments in English common law cases on third-party funding are likely to be of persuasive authority in the courts of The Bahamas. While the courts of The Bahamas have examined the effect of these principles on the assignment of causes of action, there have been no decisions approving or disapproving arrangements for or specific terms of litigation funding. The assignment of a cause of action to a third party will be permitted only if it can be shown that the third party as assignee has a genuine commercial interest in taking the assignment and enforcing it for his or her own benefit.
While case law has relaxed the courts’ approach to the issue of whether the principles of champerty and maintenance would invalidate a third party’s assistance in pursuing an action for profit, it would still be advisable for third-party litigation funders to obtain the sanction of the court on a case-by-case basis prior to entering into the arrangement.
There are no stipulations as to which types or forms of action or suit may or may not receive third-party funding.
As recognised by the Privy Council in Massai Aviation Holdings, Aerostar Limited v The Attorney General and Bahamasair Holdings Limited (2007) UKPC 12, the object of the law of champerty and maintenance was originally designed to protect vulnerable defendants who might be unable to resist unmeritorious claims pursued against them. The law later developed to also protect vulnerable plaintiffs who might be induced to part with some of the proceeds of their action in order to obtain funding to pursue it.
To the extent that the modern developments in English common law have deemed such arrangements permissible as not having offended the rules of champerty and maintenance, there have been no distinctions between their availability to plaintiffs or defendants, and a court in The Bahamas is unlikely to prefer validating one over the other.
Since the scope and level of third-party litigation funding has not been addressed by legislation in The Bahamas, there are no specific guidelines on the types of costs to be funded by third parties.
Please see 2.4 Minimum and Maximum Amounts of Third-Party Funding.
Contingency fees are not permitted.
Since the scope and level of third-party litigation funding has not been addressed by legislation in The Bahamas, there are no specific guidelines on time limits by which funding should be obtained.
The Rules of the Supreme Court do not contain any pre-action protocols prior to the commencement of proceedings. While it is a usual practice for a demand letter to be sent by the plaintiff to the potential defendant before initiating proceedings, this step is not mandatory nor is there an obligation on the potential defendant to respond to a pre-action letter.
The limitation periods for different causes of action are set out in the Limitation Act, 1995. For instance, actions founded on simple contract or on tort (not involving personal injuries) must be brought within six years. An action for damages in respect of personal injuries and actions under the Fatal Accidents Act must be brought within three years.
The limitation period begins to run from the date on which the cause of action accrued. In claims founded upon contract, the limitation period will run from the date of the breach of contract. In actions founded upon tort, the limitation period runs from the date when the act causing the damage occurred.
The Limitation Act, 1995 provides for the extension of the limitation period in cases of disability, acknowledgement, part payment, fraud and mistake.
A limitation defence must be specifically pleaded by a defendant. The court is not entitled of its own motion to bar a claim which is not brought within the prescribed limitation period.
Generally, the jurisdictional requirements are based on whether or not a defendant can be effectively served within The Bahamas. A defendant may be served outside of the jurisdiction of The Bahamas in certain cases stipulated under Order 11 of the Rules of the Supreme Court.
Proceedings for most causes of action are commenced by a generally endorsed writ of summons (writ), requiring the defendant(s) to enter an appearance in the action within 14 days of being served with the writ. Once a defendant has entered an appearance, the writ is then followed by a statement of claim, which provides detailed particulars of the plaintiff’s claims.
Pursuant to Order 5, rule 3 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, proceedings by which an application is to be made to the Supreme Court under any statute must be commenced by an originating summons, unless expressed otherwise. There are also certain other proceedings which are considered appropriate to be commenced by originating summons. The originating summons stipulates the claim and is supported by an affidavit.
Further, proceedings may be commenced by originating motion or petition only if required by the Rules of the Supreme Court or by any statute.
The originating process may be amended without the leave of the court after it is filed, but before service on the defendant. After service on the defendant, the leave of the court is required to amend the originating process.
Generally, a writ or other originating process must be served personally on each defendant by the plaintiff or his or her agent. The court may make an order for substituted service of the originating process or any other document. Further, a writ is deemed to be duly served on a defendant where his or her attorney endorses on the writ a statement that he or she accepts service of the writ on behalf of the defendant.
Order 11, rule 1 of the Rules of the Supreme Court stipulates the cases in which service of a notice of a writ outside of the jurisdiction of The Bahamas is deemed permissible with the leave of the court. An application for the grant of leave for service of a notice of a writ outside of the jurisdiction must be supported by an affidavit stating:
If a defendant fails to enter an appearance to the originating process, judgment in default of appearance may be entered against such defendant, either with or without the leave of the court, depending on the type of action. A defendant may apply to set aside a judgment entered in default of appearance on the ground that the judgment was irregular or that the defendant has a good defence on the merits to the plaintiff’s claim.
In The Bahamas, representative actions may be commenced where numerous persons have the same interest in any proceedings, subject to certain exceptions. At any stage of the representative proceedings, the court has the discretion, on an application by the plaintiff, to appoint any one or more of the defendants to represent all, or all except one or more, of those persons in the proceedings.
Rule 10(3) of the Bahamas Bar (Code of Professional Conduct) Regulations states that attorneys should provide clients with a fair estimate of their fees and disbursements, pointing out any uncertainties involved.
It is possible for parties to make interim applications before the substantive hearing of a claim. Interim (or interlocutory) applications include those dealing with management/procedural issues, evidential disputes, the striking out of portions of pleadings or the claim in its entirety, costs, injunctive relief, contempt proceedings, etc.
Parties can make an application for early judgment, called an application for summary judgment, on some or all of the issues in dispute. Such an application is made by the plaintiff where there is no reasonable prospect of success of the opposing party and there is no other compelling reason why the case should be disposed of at trial. Conversely, a defendant can apply to strike out a part of or the entire claim made against him. These applications can be made at any time, but the parties are encouraged to make them as early on in the proceedings as possible.
As stated above, the most common motions made prior to trial which could dispose of the action (or portions thereof) are an application by the plaintiff for summary judgment and an application by the defendant to strike out the claim.
Generally speaking, it is for the plaintiff to decide which causes of action to pursue and which parties to claim against. However, where a defendant seeks to be indemnified and asserts that any blame attributed to him or her must be covered by another party, the defendant may add a “third party” to the action. Should a party who was not named in the proceedings wish to become a party, it can apply to be joined to the proceedings on the basis that it is an interested party and/or necessary for the determination of the issues before the court.
A defendant may apply for an order that money be paid into court to secure any possible cost order, should the plaintiff’s claim be unsuccessful. The power to order security for costs is discretionary, but it is usually ordered where the plaintiff is non-resident without any assets in the jurisdiction.
Please see 11 Costs.
Ordinarily, the applicant will write to the opposing counsel to agree convenient dates and thereafter make an application to the court for a hearing date for the application. In the event the application is urgent, the applicant can write to the court directly and seek to have the application heard ex parte.
Discovery is available in civil cases in The Bahamas in the form of document disclosure, production and inspection. It does not include witness testimony, as oral evidence is generally given at trial. Discovery is administered by the litigants, and parties may agree to dispense with or limit the scope of the discovery of documents. Where such an agreement is made, the costs of the discovery process can be curbed.
As a general rule, the court has no power to order the discovery or production of documents as against a person who is not a party to the action. However, within certain limits, the right to obtain discovery has been extended, upon application by a party, against a person who is not a party in form, but is so in truth and substance.
Where discovery is to be made with or without an order of the court, the parties concerned must make and serve on the other party/parties a list of the documents which are or have been in their possession, custody or power relating to any matter in question in the cause.
Order 24 of the Rules of the Supreme Court provides for discovery mechanisms in The Bahamas.
The concept of legal privilege is recognised in The Bahamas. However, with respect to disclosure, the fact that a document is privileged does not exempt a party from disclosing its existence.
Pursuant to the Bahamas Bar (Code of Professional Conduct) Regulations, attorneys have a duty to hold in strict confidence all information received in the course of the professional relationship from or concerning the client. There is no statutory distinction between external and in-house counsel.
The only documents which are not to be disclosed are those which are not relevant to the matter and those which are not and were never in the possession, custody or power of the party or the party’s agent. Further, where there is an order for limited discovery or relating to specific documents, only documents within the terms of that order must be disclosed.
Among the forms of injunctive relief which the Supreme Court will frequently grant are Mareva injunctions, Anton Piller orders, Norwich Pharmacal orders and anti-suit injunctions. An overarching principle is that the court will not grant a free-standing injunction where no cause of action lies against the party to be restrained. Unless there is jurisdiction to obtain some substantive relief against the defendant in the courts of The Bahamas, a court will not grant interim injunctions over a defendant’s assets in The Bahamas.
The general circumstances under which the court will grant injunctive relief remain governed by the principles laid down in American Cyanamid Co v Ethicon Ltd  AC 396. The court must consider:
An applicant for a freezing order to secure assets must show a “good and arguable case”, which is a slightly higher threshold than the above-mentioned “serious issue to be tried”.
The court will exercise its discretionary jurisdiction in equity to grant Norwich Pharmacal relief by requiring a third party to make disclosures of information leading to the identity of a wrongdoer or to trace or preserve assets. It is not necessary that the respondent is itself a wrongdoer, but sufficient that he or she is mixed up, involved or otherwise participated in the wrongdoing, whether innocently or not, and has information which is relevant.
Recognising the principles set out by the Privy Council with regard to anti-suit injunctions that the court does not purport to interfere with any foreign court, but may act personally upon a defendant by restraining him or her from commencing or continuing proceedings in a foreign court, courts in The Bahamas have been prepared to grant anti-suit injunctions where they were satisfied that the party over whom they had in personam jurisdiction had conducted the foreign proceedings in a manner which was vexatious, oppressive or unconscionable.
Although there are no formal rules governing audiences outside of the normal business hours of the court’s operation, judges of the Supreme Court have in practice accommodated quick and urgent hearings for injunctive relief at times outside of normal business hours and/or in places in which the judge is reasonably accessible outside of the court room.
While injunctive relief can and in many instances is obtained without notice to a defendant, the principle formulated by the Privy Council is that the courts should not entertain applications of which no notice has been given unless either (i) giving notice would enable the defendant to take steps to defeat the purpose of the injunction, or (ii) there has been no time to give notice before the injunction is required. Where an application proceeds without notice to the defendant, the applicant is under a more compelling duty to make full and frank disclosure.
In the event that the court determines that the order for injunctive relief ought not to have been made and if a defendant succeeds in discharging the order on that basis, the court also has the jurisdiction to make a finding of liability and assess damages if it is proved that loss or damage was suffered by the defendant.
There are certain exceptions to the general principle that the court requires an undertaking in damages to be given. Further, the court will require security of the undertaking in damages where the applicant can show that there is a sufficient risk of loss which is unlikely to be compensated unless it was caused by the grant of the injunction and that such loss can be properly quantified and estimated.
The primary use of the Mareva injunction is to grant injunctive relief against worldwide assets of the respondent.
The courts in The Bahamas have applied the English common law principles developed in TSB Private Bank International v Chabra  1 WLR 231, which allows injunctive relief to be obtained not only against parties to the cause of action, but also against third parties who hold and control assets for and on behalf of the wrongdoer.
There are a number of options open to a litigant where a party enjoined fails to comply with the terms of an injunction, including seeking a variation of the order. However, the primary consequence of a breach of an injunction is that an application for contempt of court may be pursued. The forms of punishment for a finding of contempt are varied, ranging from the refusal of audience to fines and imprisonment for continued and sustained breaches of injunctive orders.
Civil trials in The Bahamas are in the first instance heard before a single judge and are generally open to the public. Written witness statements and expert witness statements are exchanged prior to the trial and stand as evidence-in-chief. At the trial the witnesses affirm the contents of their statements and are then tendered for cross-examination. Counsel for the parties may make opening addresses to the court and, at the end of the trial, closing submissions. Although the judge may render his or her judgment or ruling immediately upon the conclusion of the trial, it is usual for judgment to be reserved to a later date to enable the judge to consider the transcript of the proceedings, the evidence and the legal submissions.
Interlocutory applications may be made by either party prior to the trial. At the hearing the filed summons and the affidavits in support and in response are considered. Oral arguments are made by counsel for the parties in addition to any written skeleton arguments which may have been laid over in advance of the hearing. The registrar or judge will usually make an order immediately upon the conclusion of the hearing, unless he or she reserves the decision to a later date.
The court has a duty to actively manage cases. A case management hearing takes place before all civil trials. After the close of pleadings, the action is referred to a case management conference before the judge who will hear the trial.
In The Bahamas, civil cases are in practice not heard by a jury, although the Rules of the Supreme Court do make provision for a trial before a judge with a jury.
The admission of evidence at trial is governed by the Rules of the Supreme Court and the Evidence Act. Generally, evidence may be given of facts relevant to any fact in issue. Oral evidence must be the direct evidence of a witness. Subject to certain exceptions, hearsay evidence must not generally be admitted in evidence.
Expert evidence may be given in certain circumstances where, inter alia, the court has to form an opinion on:
At the case management hearing, directions are given for the filing and exchange of expert reports and expert witness statements in advance of the trial. The experts are subject to cross-examination at trial.
Interlocutory applications before a registrar of the Supreme Court are heard in chambers and are not open to the public, although the parties may be present. Interlocutory applications before a judge may be heard in chambers or in open court.
As a general rule, trials are open to the public. An application can be made for a trial to be held in camera if the applicant can demonstrate to the court that a public hearing is likely to lead to a denial of justice.
Judges may and often do ask questions of counsel, the factual witnesses and the expert witnesses during the conduct of the trial.
The timeframe from the commencement of an action to trial is dependent upon a number of factors. For commercial disputes, an action can progress to trial within two years of commencement, although typically commercial actions tend to take longer to progress to trial. The length of the trial depends on the complexity of the issues, the number of parties involved, the number of factual and expert witnesses and the volume of the documentary evidence.
Once parties have agreed to settle their dispute, there are various ways to discontinue the court proceedings. While court approval is generally not necessary, parties often wish to have their settlement blessed by the court in the form of a Tomlin Order (see 8.3 Enforcement of Settlement Agreements).
Where parties do not feel the need to put the settlement before the court, they will generally execute an agreement detailing the terms of the settlement and simply file a notice of discontinuance.
The terms of a settlement can remain confidential, whether it be contained in a Tomlin Order or by virtue of the terms of the settlement agreement.
Where parties have agreed to settle proceedings via a Tomlin Order, that Order will provide the court with the terms upon which either party may resume the proceedings before the court in the event that either party breaches the terms of the settlement agreement.
In order to set aside a settlement agreement, it would have to be shown that the agreement was entered into as a result of fraud, a misrepresentation, undue influence or duress.
The remedies available to a successful litigant may be either legal, equitable or statutory.
Generally, damages are the legal remedy awarded by a court in The Bahamas.
The most common equitable remedies in claims involving a breach of contract are specific performance, rescission, rectification, injunctions and declaratory relief. In a dispute involving a breach of trust, equitable remedies may include an accounting of profits by the trustee and the tracing of ownership interests.
Actions may also be brought pursuant to specific statutes – for example, the Companies Act or the Employment Act.
As a general rule, damages under Bahamian law are compensatory. There is no limit (statutory or otherwise) on the amount of damages which a claimant can recover. The parties can, however, agree to limit the damages which can be recovered.
Damages are recoverable provided that they were caused by the defendant’s actions or inaction, are foreseeable and not too remote. The plaintiff also has a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate the losses suffered.
Aggravated damages may be awarded when there is something which under contract or tort would justify more than a nominal award. Exemplary or punitive damages may be awarded when the sum intended to be awarded as aggravated does not adequately address the character of unacceptable conduct. However, to date aggravated or exemplary damages have not been awarded in a personal injury action in The Bahamas.
The Civil Procedure (Award of Interest) Act of 1992 provides for the award of both pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.
It is within the discretion of the court as to whether pre-judgment interest on a debt or damages is in fact awarded and, if so, at what rate and for what period of time.
Post-judgment interest runs on every judgment debt. The rate of interest, as fixed by the Civil Procedure (Rate of Interest) Rules, 2008, is the prime rate of the Central Bank of the Bahamas plus 2% per annum.
The Rules of the Supreme Court afford the following means by which a judgment for the payment of money may be enforced: a writ of fieri facias, garnishee proceedings, a charging order, the appointment of a receiver and/or a writ of sequestration. In enforcement proceedings the plaintiff becomes the judgment creditor and the defendant becomes the judgment debtor.
The procedure to be adopted for the enforcement of a foreign judgment in The Bahamas is dependent upon the country in which the foreign judgment was obtained.
The provisions of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act (REJA) have, to date, been extended to the following countries: Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, St Lucia, Trinidad, British Guiana, British Honduras, Australia and the UK.
A judgment or order in civil proceedings given or made by certain superior courts of one of the countries listed above may be registered and enforced under the REJA by the judgment creditor making an application to the Supreme Court within 12 months of the date of the foreign judgment. Once registered, the foreign judgment becomes a judgment of the Supreme Court.
If the judgment was obtained in a country to which the REJA does not extend, enforcement in The Bahamas may only be achieved under the common law, which requires the satisfaction of six specific conditions. If those conditions are satisfied, the proceedings are then conducted by the plaintiff serving a writ on the defendant, in which the foreign judgment is pleaded as the basis for the claim. If the defendant enters an appearance, the plaintiff may apply for summary judgment on the ground that the defendant has no defence to the claim.
Appeals to the Supreme Court may come from the magistrates’ courts or any tribunal. Also, an appeal from a judgment, order or decision of a registrar lies to a Supreme Court judge in chambers. With the leave of the Supreme Court, an application for judicial review may be made with respect to proceedings before a magistrate or tribunal.
Subject to an exhaustive list of exceptions, the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine all appeals from any judgment or order of the Supreme Court made in or incidental to civil proceedings. Similarly, in criminal proceedings, the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear appeals from a person convicted of a criminal offence in the Supreme Court pursuant to an exhaustive list of grounds of appeal.
All appeals to the Privy Council must be made with leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal or special leave from the Privy Council.
With respect to appeals from a magistrate to the Supreme Court, the magistrate must inform the party to whom the decision is adverse that it has a right to appeal and what steps must be taken to appeal.
As stated above, subject to an exhaustive list of exceptions, the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine all appeals from any judgment or order of the Supreme Court made in or incidental to civil proceedings. For criminal appeals to the Court of Appeal from a Supreme Court conviction, a person may only appeal on one or more specific grounds.
Leave to appeal to the Privy Council will only be granted upon:
Appeals to the Supreme Court must be brought by originating motion. The notice of this motion must state the grounds of appeal and whether the appeal is against the whole or part of the decision. The notice must be served and the appeal entered within 28 days after the date of the judgment, order, determination or other decision being appealed.
Civil appeals to the Court of Appeal must be brought by notice of motion. Appeals against interlocutory orders must be made within 14 days of the order and appeals against final orders within six weeks of the order.
For appeals to the Privy Council, they must be brought by petition from the intending appellant pursuant to leave to appeal obtained from the court appealed from or pursuant to special leave granted by the Privy Council within 21 days of the date of the judgment to be appealed from.
Appeals to the Supreme Court are by way of rehearing, and the Supreme Court has the power to receive further evidence on questions of fact and draw any inferences of fact.
Appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council are also by way of rehearing. The Court of Appeal and the Privy Council have full discretionary power to receive further evidence on questions of fact in the case of an appeal from a judgment after a trial or hearing of any cause or matter on the merits, but no further evidence can be admitted except on special grounds or with respect to matters which occurred after the trial or hearing.
On an appeal to the Supreme Court, the court can impose conditions on the granting of the appeal by amending the grounds of appeal or make any other order which it deems just to ensure the determination of the real question on the merits. The Court of Appeal has the same power.
The Privy Council only hears applications for special leave to appeal. The only condition which is typically imposed is security for costs. Leave to appeal is otherwise granted by the Court of Appeal subject to the powers of that court, which allow conditions to be imposed on granting leave to appeal.
After hearing an appeal, the Supreme Court has the power to give any judgment or decision or make any order which should have been made by the body before whom the matter was first brought. It also has the power to remit the matter for rehearing.
After hearing a civil appeal, the Court of Appeal may make an order confirming, reversing or varying the judgment or order appealed against or order a new trial. The Court of Appeal has the power to give any judgment and make any order which ought to have been made, and to make any further or other order which it deems necessary. It can also order a new trial or set aside a finding or judgment of the court below.
As the final court of appeal, the Privy Council has the same powers as the Court of Appeal after the hearing of an appeal.
There are two main principles when it comes to deciding which party should pay the costs of an interim application or of the whole proceedings: (i) the costs payable by one party to another are in the discretion of the court; and (ii) “costs follow the event” – ie, the unsuccessful party will be ordered to pay the costs of the successful party.
Parties should attempt to settle the issue of costs in the first instance. If the parties cannot come to a settlement position, the successful party’s/parties’ bill(s) of costs is/are sent to a taxing master, who will hold a taxation, following which he or she will make a ruling on the costs to be paid by the unsuccessful party.
Once the costs have been taxed and certified, the paying party must pay the costs promptly. Any award of costs is subject to a review and thereafter an appeal.
In exercising its discretion on costs, the court is required to have regard to all the circumstances but, in particular, the conduct of the parties (before as well as during the proceedings), whether a party was only partly successful and any admissible settlement offers which were made.
Once an award of costs is made, it attracts the same rate of interest as a civil judgment pursuant to the Civil Procedure (Award of Interest) Act of 1992.
In The Bahamas, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is considered as a progressive way of settling disputes in a quick and efficient manner. Although all forms of ADR are utilised, arbitration is seemingly the most popular method because it is enforced through legislation and by the courts and is conducted in accordance with globally recognised standards.
Pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court, the court has the case management power to conduct a dispute resolution conference between the parties at the close of pleadings. This can lead to a mediation or other ADR process, with a view to arriving at a settlement before the trial starts. Although the parties are directed to mediation and are encouraged to negotiate a settlement, there are no sanctions against a party who refuses to participate in ADR, although the objection of one party to engage in ADR may be taken into consideration on the issue of costs.
Mediation and arbitration clauses are treated as binding in The Bahamas and will only be overturned in exceptional circumstances. In the case of an arbitration agreement, the Arbitration Act (henceforth, the Act) vests the Supreme Court with the statutory power to stay proceedings in order to enforce the agreement to arbitrate.
The Bahamian court system promotes ADR pursuant to provisions of the Rules of the Supreme Court, which dictate its procedure through enabling legislation in relation to ADR methods such as arbitration. Organised institutions which offer and conduct forms of ADR include ADR Bahamas and the Chartered Institute of International Arbitrators.
Under the Act, arbitration is a legislatively backed form of ADR with the support of the Supreme Court and the Court of the Appeal, which are vested with enforcement jurisdiction. The conduct of arbitration, its recognition and enforcement are also supported by the Rules of the Supreme Court, which set the procedure for appealing from or enforcing an arbitration award.
There are no restrictions in relation to disputes in civil proceedings.
Under the Act, a party to an arbitration can apply to the court to challenge the award of a tribunal on three grounds:
In addition to the Act, The Bahamas has given effect to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1958 by enacting the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act, 2009, which mandates that a foreign award made pursuant to the New York Convention will be enforceable in The Bahamas, either by an action or in the same way as domestic orders are enforced. Under the Act, a domestic arbitration award may, with the leave of the court, be enforced in the same manner as a judgment or order of the court. Generally, a domestic judgment or order of the court will be enforced under Order 45 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, which states that a judgment or order can be enforced by a writ of fieri facias, garnishee proceedings, a charging order, the appointment of a receiver, an order of committal and, where necessary, a writ of sequestration.