The State Court Administrator Office has released a study on the impact of ordering cases to mediation where one or more parties rejected case evaluation awards under $25,000.
Mediation, formalized through a series of court rules adopted in 2000, has been considered to be one tool courts could use to help parties resolve their case earlier and without adjudication by the court.
This study examined the effect of ordering mediation in select civil cases where case evaluation awards have been rejected. Ninety-three randomly selected cases from the circuit courts in Kent, Macomb, and Oakland counties were included in the study. The cases met the following criteria: (1) the case evaluation award was under $25,000; (2) the award was rejected by one or all of the parties; (3) parties were ordered to mediation either with a private mediator or with a Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) center; (4) the case was ordered to mediation under the pilot; and (5) the case was disposed between March 1, 2007, and September 17, 2009.
Seventy-seven (83 percent) of the cases settled prior to trial, 9 (10 percent) were disposed by summary disposition or default judgment, and the remaining 7 (7 percent) were disposed by trial. On average, cases were 340 days old when ordered to mediation. Forty percent of the cases were disposed within an average of 66 days from the order to mediate. After mediation was conducted and an agreement was reached at the table, an additional 30 cases were disposed; thus 67 cases (72 percent) were disposed within an average of 78 days from the order to mediate. An additional 15 (88 percent) cases settled after a settlement conference or mediation; an average of 99 days after the order to mediate.
Cases settling either pre-mediation or through the mediation event were disposed on average within 93 days of the order to mediate; cases not settled were disposed on average 178 days after the order to mediate. Settlement rates at mediation were higher when all summary disposition motions were decided prior to mediation than when a summary disposition motion was pending. Cases with trial dates scheduled early did not have higher settlement rates than cases without a trial date scheduled early. Further, nearly one-half of the cases with early scheduling of trial dates were ultimately escheduled between one and three times. Taken together, the study suggests that the practice of early scheduling of trial dates should be reassessed for its efficacy in promoting settlement.