Tuesday, October 02, 2007

San Dimas Paying $9 Million To Teen Badly Hurt In Car Crash

An Associated Press story (from the San Francisco Chronicle) about a mediated settlement in San Dimas (Southern California) is one of the few articles I have read about big settlements reached through mediation. (Link to story here)

Of course, we always read or hear in the news about cases settling or ongoing "settlement talks." And most people know that most cases settle before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. But I have noticed there is frequently no mention of the fact that such settlement talks occurred with a mediator or that the case settled through mediation. I even notice this when I have read in the legal news (i.e., news fit only for lawyers I think) that it was in fact a mediated settlement; but in the regular news for non-lawyers, nothing is mentioned about mediation. We're led to believe a settlement occurred with warring parties, aggressive trial attorneys and no intermediary? After months of expensive litigation? Hmmm... not likely.

Not that I feel a personal slight at this omission by newspaper or television reporters, but I do feel like the profession itself is not getting its due respect for the accomplishments of its members.

Most mediators I know believe that mediation can be useful in resolving almost any dispute. And a significant amount of a mediator's time is spent educating others about the process and benefits of mediation. To that end, it would certainly benefit not only the profession, but also the public, if news stories reported on the process used to settle the case so that people know mediation is a real option.

As a mediator and former litigator, even without reading the story about the San Dimas settlement, I know that a $9 million settlement was not reached over an informal lunch or two between the attorneys or their clients. Such a settlement is almost always going to be the result of a lot of hard work by a skilled mediator as well as the attorneys and their clients. And in this case, it took two days of mediation (exhausting for everyone, I'm sure) to reach this deal. Kudos to the parties and their counsel for reaching a settlement, to the mediator for such hard work and also to the AP reporter who let everyone know this settlement was the result of mediation.

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