May 30, 2012
By Nicholas J. Laybourn, published on May 30, 2012, in Business in Savannah.
When business owners are faced with a major legal dispute, mediation can serve as a viable alternative to litigation.
The mediation process allows the participants, with the assistance of neutral parties, to systematically isolate disputed issues to develop alternative options and reach a consensual settlement accommodating each party’s needs. This type of arrangement emphasizes the participants’ independent responsibility for making decisions. Mediation therefore becomes a self-empowering process for all parties involved.
Mediation can be preferable to litigation for a number of reasons including privacy, confidentiality and control. In addition, mediation tends to be less expensive and has a quicker timeline for resolution. Consider the benefits of resolving a dispute without the presence of court reporters, a jury, clerk, judge, bailiff and journalists. A private office is much more comfortable, and no record of the discussion that occurs during mediation is kept.
Common types of mediated cases include business disputes, employee and employer disagreements, personal injury claims, on-the-job accidents and product liability claims. All statements made during mediation are confidential and cannot be used at a later time against the person making the statement. The confidentiality protection allows all parties involved to be more honest and open with the mediator.
The mediator uses what he or she has learned in confidence and offers guidance and direction to negotiations. The mediator is not retained to tell the parties how to act or to determine what the case is worth. Rather, the mediator guides and advises negotiation strategy. Typically, mediation is scheduled and resolved within one day.
An easy way for a business to protect itself from future conflicts is to include a mediation clause in any contract. Mediation clauses are increasingly included in contracts either in place of arbitration clauses or as a precondition to arbitration and/or litigation.
Increasingly, mediation is the preferred alternative form of dispute resolution for local business owners. Be smart and protect yourself and your business by considering mediation as an alternative to traditional litigation.
Nicholas J. Laybourn is an associate at HunterMaclean who specializes in business litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-236-0261.
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