WHAT IS A MEDIATION?
A mediation is a meeting between the parties with a third party called the mediator. The mediator is a lawyer disinterested in the case who tries to facilitate settlement between the parties.
A mediation is non-binding and begins with all of the parties meeting together in the same room. The mediator will explain the process and that he or she is not interested in the outcome and does not favor one side or the other. She usually wants a commitment of time and a commitment of earnestness to listen to the other side and be flexible. Then, she will turn to the plaintiff lawyer and ask him to present his side of the case. Some lawyers argue their cases; some make innocuous comments about wanting to resolve the case; and sometimes the heart of the dispute is presented with why the defendants should consider their options.
Once the plaintiff is through, each of the defendants will take their turns responding. They usually say they are sorry about whatever circumstance the plaintiffs are in and then proceed to explain why their clients' have no responsibility and will not recover damages from them.
At the conclusion of the opening remarks, the mediator may ask for comments from the parties, but the parties almost never speak. If no further discussion occurs, and it rarely does, then the parties split up into separate rooms.
The mediator then visits each party separately. She will try to get the parties to acknowledge their weaknesses and strengths and then attempt to have them concede a lesser point of contention so as to move the parties toward each other. Defendants are encouraged to offer more than they want to offer and Plaintiffs are encouraged to accept less than they want to accept.
The mediator will continue this process throughout the day as long as the parties are moving toward resolution and at some point, a settlement may be reached. If so, then the parties will execute temporary settlement documents and the agreement is thereafter binding as a contract.
If the parties can not agree, then they are free to end the mediation and none of the settlement offers or demands will be used or can be used as evidence in trial.
Mediations cost around $500 per party for a half day and $1000 per party for a full day mediation. Some cost more.