Any regular reader of Construction Law Musings knows that I am both a great believer in mediation and a certified Virginia mediator. After the last few weeks in which I participated in mediation by Zoom, a Judicial Settlement Conference (read, court-ordered mediation with a retired judge), and will be participating in another mediation in person next week, it seems as if others believe in the process as well.
After all of this mediation activity, all of which related to construction project-related disputes, I am more convinced than ever that almost every construction case should at least be submitted for mediation. The list below gives my reasons for saying this:
- The parties are in control. In litigation or arbitration, the parties present their evidence to a third party or parties with no familiarity with the “boots on the ground” reality of the construction project at issue. This third party gives a cold review of what evidence court rules allow them to consider and gives a final ruling that one side “wins” and the other side “loses.” This decision has monetary consequences for the losing party, not the least of which is a large attorney fee bill after potentially several years of legal wrangling. With mediation, those closest to the project, the parties, can say what they want, present what they feel to be the best case, and work for a solution. The solution can be flexible and allow the two sides to reach a business decision that is at least better than a large monetary judgment against one of the parties that is only further enforceable in court.