During the last several years, mediations have become more common as a means to try to achieve settlement in cases. Sometimes mediations are ordered by courts, and sometimes the parties simply agree among themselves to hold a mediation.
A mediation is essentially a meeting of the parties and their attorneys, together with the mediator, a neutral person, usually an attorney, who has certain expertise in facilitating settlement negotiations. Often, mediators are certified by the State Bar associations, after having specified certain training procedures or demonstrating other mediation credentials through their experience.
A mediation is very different from an arbitration. Unlike an arbitrator, a mediator does not have the power to force or require a certain result in a case. Rather, the mediator acts much like a diplomat or facilitator or a moderator of negotiations. Many times, the mediation will begin with all parties and their attorneys together in one room, with the mediator directing general discussions about issues in the case. Then the parties may break up, with the plaintiffs and their attorneys in one room, and the defendant and their attorneys in a different room. The mediator will travel back and forth between the rooms, conveying offers and counter-offers. The mediator may also provide helpful or commentary and suggestions but the parties are not required to follow these suggestions. While trials are open to the public, mediations are completely private.
If the parties reach a settlement agreement, that will be reported to the court but the discussions during the mediation remain private.
A mediation is no guarantee that a successful settlement will occur but it is often a useful process that can produce a satisfactory settlement.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.