Monday, July 13, 2015

The Borders of Technology - Modria Resolution Center

Modria is a company that's working on developing innovations in dispute resolution.  This much is clear, and so far there's nothing controversial.  EBay uses their systems to act as online dispute resolution - Modria's systems guide the user through a series of questions, and determines which procedure is best.  It then pushes that procedure to the next step.  If it requires human involvement, it notifies the appropriate human.  In many cases, it does not require human involvement - instead, it automates results.

This is some of the value added for Modria's automated dispute resolution.  However, Modria has higher goals, and these are being implemented today.  In Ohio, tax assessment disputes run through Modria's dispute resolution system, automating a subset of the tax court.  A New York arbitration association is using it to automate settlements on medical claims for a subset of car wrecks.

Perhaps most unusual, in the Netherlands Modria's system automates divorce proceedings.  Essentially, both members of the soon-to-be former marriage answer questions about desired child custodianship, apportionment of assets, and other factors, and the system determines agreement and disagreement.  It prompts to see if a resolution can be discovered.  If resolution occurs, the results go to an attorney who confirms that neither party has given up too much, and the divorce decree then gets passed.  Presumably, if there is an irreconcilable dispute, it gets handed over to the court for a judge to preside.

Modria is looking forward to seeing this in more courts, including divorce proceedings, moving violations, tax disputes, and other factors.  According to Colin Rule, CEO of Modria, the purpose of this is to provide self-service for "simpler" legal scenarios, giving attorneys who would normally serve those roles the opportunity to serve more of the underserved.  (One may question how "simple" a divorce proceeding might be.)

There remains the outstanding question - exactly how much automation is good for the court?  Is a judgment valid if it is determined by a machine, even if a judge or court-approved attorney looks it over and says it looks okay?