For just about any lawsuit filed in the State of Florida, a judge will order the parties to go into a mediation. The mediation process involves a conference in which the two parties in a lawsuit meet with a neutral third party and try to reach a settlement without taking the case all the way to court.
It’s a fairly informal, straightforward procedure. Both parties and their lawyers will gather together with the mediator. Each disputant’s attorney will make brief opening statements describing the case at hand. After this, the mediator will split the parties up into separate rooms and conference with each of them in turn. The mediator will share their thoughts on the case with each party, then move back and forth between the two relaying information. If the case is not resolved during mediation, the mediator can help the parties decide if they should meet again or if the lawsuit must go to trial.
If you’ve been ordered to attend a mediation, here are some important basics to understand before going into the process:
Both parties must attend. Both parties are required to attend the mediation. Failure to do so can result in fines or even jail time.
Mediations are confidential. Since the point of a mediation is to give disputants a chance to speak openly and honestly with a neutral third party, all discussion is confidential. The mediator might relay information or instructions between the two parties at their request, but cannot freely disclose just anything. Additionally, these confidential conversations are not admissible in court.
A mediator can’t decide the case. The mediator is a neutral third-party, so they can have no vested interest in who wins. Rather, they are there to help the disputants reach a resolution without going to court. Usually, the mediator is a lawyer or retired judge who also has some training in conflict resolution. While they will share their own thoughts on the case during the mediation process, they do not have the power to decide who is right or wrong, and they certainly do not have the power to decide who wins the case.
Mediations don’t always settle cases. There is no legal requirement that a case be settled during the mediation. In the event that a settlement is reached during mediation, it is enforceable and all parties sign an agreement. At that point, the case is over. On the other hand, if a settlement is not reached, the mediator declares an impasse and notifies the court. From there, the parties must make a decision as to whether they meet again or pursue the case in court.
While mediations don’t always settle cases, when they do, they can save disputants potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which is one of the reasons many pursue this route. If you are considering pressing a lawsuit and want to know more about the process of mediation, we encourage you to reach out today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.