Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mediation to Resolve Disputes May Save Time and Money

Although mediation as an alternative to the traditional litigation process is not new to Maryland, a growing number of people are opting to resolve their legal disputes through mediation.  Mediation as a process that seeks to allow individuals to arrive at an outcome that is favorable to all parties rather than have judge or jury determine the outcome of their conflict.  The role of the mediator in this process is to help the parties identify issues relating to the conflict and determine their wants and needs regarding that conflict.  The mediation process may take a day or longer depending on how many issues are in dispute and how different the parties’ perspective on the conflict is.

Maryland courts have established rules that apply to mediation and other alternative dispute resolution options.  Although there are some limited exceptions, pursuant to these rules circuit courts are permitted to refer cases to mediation in an effort to resolve the conflict outside of litigation.  In light of this, an increasing number of civil cases ranging from contract disputes to the division of assets upon divorce are being resolved through mediation.  RSRM attorneys have had great success in cases referred to mediation by the Courts. 

Parties that participate in mediation and are accompanied by counsel must pay their attorneys’ hourly rates.  In addition to costs associated with attorneys’ fees, unless the mediator is court appointed, the mediator must also be paid.  Further, there may be additional costs associated with the mediation, if, for example, the parties choose to bring accountants.  Despite these costs, however, mediation may be less expensive than litigation.  However, if mediation is unsuccessful, then litigation may not be avoided, and mediation will be an added cost. 

The successful use of mediation as an alternative to litigation is highlighted in a 2002 study for the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office.   That study examined 400 cases filed over a fourteen month period in the Baltimore City Circuit Court.  Half of those cases were referred to mediation, and of those cases referred to mediation, twenty-five percent reached a conclusion within four months whereas only twelve percent of cases not referred to mediation reached a conclusion in that same period.  In addition, the study found that approximately eighty-three percent of the cases sent to mediation were resolved prior to the date when that case was scheduled for trial whereas only seventy percent of cases not referred to mediation were resolved prior to the scheduled trial date.

Although mediation may be less expensive than litigation and provide more certainty to parties since their fate is not decided by a judge or a jury, some still desire to have their day in court.  

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