Some Types of Cases May Be Better Suited to Mediation than Others

This post follows up a previous post that shares some findings from our ongoing study of actual mediation sessions that were conducted in a Superior Court in Georgia during an approximately nine-month period in 2006-2007.

Georgia’s Superior Courts are courts of general jurisdiction. They hear all types of civil cases and wide variety of cases are referred to mediation programs connected with the Superior Courts.

To determine whether certain types of cases more likely to settle through mediation than others, our data sample was sorted by case types. The case types are assigned by the Clerk’s office. We then compared the settlement rate of each type of case that completed a mediation session.

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Based on our sample of 578 mediated cases, which we believe to be representative, some types of cases are more likely to settle during mediation than others. Cases concerning specific domestic relations issues such as separate maintenance, paternity, visitation and child support appear to settle at relatively high rates through court-connected mediation while cases for damages and civil complaints settle at relatively low rates through mediation.

Enlarging our data set may help us calculate the suitability of more exotic forms of action, not listed here, for settlement in mediation.

These findings should be useful to attorneys who would like to advise their clients on the value of mediation for their particular dispute. Mediation outcomes can not be predicted with certainty, but studying the data may support an educated guess. These finding would also be useful to court administrators who wanted to target resources where they may do the most good.

It is perhaps significant that the cases in this sample are generally referred to mediation at a particular time (one or two months) after the answer (or answers) are filed. It may be that certain cases are better suited to mediation early in the life of a case than others. Parties in cases for damages and civil complaints may have a greater need for fact finding than parties in domestic relations matters which makes early mediation more appropriate for the latter than the former. Multiple-variable analysis and exploration of the time factors involved should be helpful.