By: Eric L. Hostetler
Mediation can either be voluntary or ordered by the court, depending on the jurisdiction. Mediation is becoming more and more common in small claims cases as the court will provide Supreme Court approved mediators to discuss your case after the pre-trial conference. In most circuit court cases, the Judge will require the parties attempt to mediate as part of a pre-trial order.
But is mediation a good idea? In some jurisdictions, especially small claims cases (those with $5,000.00 or less in damages), it has the potential to resolve the case the same day. Mediation gives the parties a chance to sit down with each other, bring to light their claims/defenses and discuss them with a trained, unbiased third party. Resolution means less costs going forward for both parties and saves judicial economy by removing that case from an already overloaded court docket.
In county and circuit court cases, the potential for more complex cases involving more complex issues is more likely. The mediators used in these types of cases are typically private mediators who charge a fee, usually split between the parties. The benefit here is the mediator more than likely is an attorney and has knowledge of the area you are litigating in. This can greatly facilitate a resolution and again, reduce the potential costs and attorney fees for both sides going forward.
In my years of practice I have resolved countless cases through the mediation process, whether using court-appointed mediators or private mediators. And more importantly, saved my clients a lot of money in costs and attorney fees.
As always, consult with your attorney to determine if mediation is the right process for you in your case.