GWEB partner Paul Lewis has now been certified to mediate cases in Maryland. After a 42-year career that involved his representing many clients in dozens of such matters, he has now switched “sides of the table”. In the coming weeks he will offer his though and insights on alternative dispute resolution (A.D.R.)
The key feature of mediation that distinguishes this process from litigation is that mediation provides the parties to take an active role in fashioning the ultimate decision.
If your contractor walks off the job before he finishes your kitchen, you can of course file suit for the money that you paid and for the money that you spent for the guy that replaced him. Twelve months later—after suffering through seemingly endless hours of stress, and after spending thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs—you have the pleasure of having a judge who heard about your problems the day before decide your fate. If you’re very lucky, you can have 6 jury members who’d rather be anywhere than the Circuit Court take a vote whether you deserve to be compensated for living without a kitchen for six months.
Mediator training taught me that the best “judges” of what is fair are always the parties who are part of the dispute.
Using the above scenario as an example, an experienced and well trained mediator would delve deeply into the issues that drove the parties into dispute. The contractor might explain that he could not finish the job because his home builder’s license was (improperly) suspended by the State—a fact that he failed to convey to the homeowner. The homeowner might concede that when the contractor first tried to return to the job, the client refused entry, absent a full refund, despite the fact that the work that was accomplished was excellent.
The Mediator will solicit suggestions for solutions that might appease both parties. Perhaps, the contractor will finish the job for merely the cost of materials. The homeowner might agree to offer a positive reference on social media. The point being that, contrary to trial that inevitably produces a winner and a loser, in this instance both sides “win” in ways that appeal to each individually.