by: Carolyne S. Kalson, Esq.
In the interest of decreasing the Court calendar and providing faster resolution of disputes, a Civil Mediation program has been established in the Courts. Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party who is neutral, the mediator, facilitates communication between disputing parties for the purposed of assisting them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediators do not have authority to make a decision for the parties or to impose a settlement. In Ocean County the following types of cases are referred to presumptive mediation: Civil Rights, Law Against Discrimination, Environmental, Real Property, Contract, Tort (Personal Injury), Commercial Transactions, Employment, Divorce cases with economic issues, Toxic Tort, Construction and Tenancy.
Mediators are appointed by the Court after completion of a training program and are entitled to a fee for their service after the first 3 hours which is split between the parties. (The 3 free hours has been an issue for many mediators and a proposal is pending to provide some limited compensation for Mediators.) A case is assigned to Mediation after an Answer to the Complaint is filed. The Mediation is supposed to occur within 90 days after the referral to Mediation although the deadline can be extended.
As an advocate for my clients, I am all in favor of Mediation. Litigation is a long, arduous and difficult process for many of my clients. The more the case lingers on and they have to retell their story, the more they are prevented from moving forward with their lives. I have a sign in my office, "This too shall pass." It will pass a lot sooner if you settle your case quickly. Additionally, the more discovery or work the attorneys do, the more the legal fees and expenses of litigation add up. You may get more money at trial, but it will cost you more. Some attorneys are naturally reluctant to mediate and dissuade their clients from participating positively in the process.
As a Mediator, I know that the best resolution of a dispute is one the parties themselves work out and agree on. You can be creative and obtain relief that may not be available if you win in Court. You can cut your losses early on and have certainty about the outcome. When you go to Court, anything can and will happen, but we will leave that for another day.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and not the Brick Township Chamber of Commerce