Using Mediation in California to Settle a Case

I had, as described in the prior post, all of the ammunition that I needed to go to hearing in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Central Judicial District. However, hearings can be costly, there is no absolute assurance as to the result, and clients tend to be sensitive to legal fees. A common method of resolving cases without going to trial is to mediate the case in accordance with California Code of Civil Procedure §1775.1.

In mediation the parties select a neutral third party (typically an attorney with training in mediation or a retired judge with similar training) to hear their grievances. The mediator then separates the parties and engages in what I refer to as “shuttle diplomacy”. It is effective most of the time, provided that both parties intend that the matter be settled; else, it is a waste of time. The mediator facilitates achieving the settlement by expressing his or her opinion as to the strengths of each side of the case to the party representing that side, and carrying settlement offers back and forth, usually to the point where the parties can agree and end the litigation.

This is what occurred in this case. A mediation was held, the parties described what the strengths of their positions were, and the mediator went to work. As it turned out, he spent a lot more time engaging the other side than he did with my client and me. The result was that the father (trustee for his children) immediately turned over the majority of the trust assets as he should have done years prior. On delivery of the trust assets, my clients dismissed the petition.

Why, you ask, did my clients accept the majority of the trust assets rather than insisting on all of them? Because the cost of going to trial was more than the value of the additional assets that would have been recovered; not to mention the continuing emotional costs of my clients suing their father. My clients made a business decision based on sound economics and chose to settle at that point, assured of the the result of their actions. That was the end of this case.