Mediation has become a popular method for resolving complex business disputes in Georgia. Previously, when a business conflict arose, the preferred and typical remedy was to file a lawsuit and head to court.
But in recent years many businesses have realized the benefits of using mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution to attempt to resolve the dispute. Mediation is generally quicker and less costly and both parties usually walk away happier with the outcome.
Perhaps you are willing to try mediation but the other party refuses and wants to litigate. Can you force them to mediate?
Filing a petition to mediate
Georgia’s Alternative Dispute Resolution rules state that any party can file a petition with the court asking that the case be referred to mediation.
This can be done at any point during the process, even if your lawsuit is already filed in court and you have a hearing or trial date set up. However, the court will review your petition and consider various factors before deciding if your case should go to mediation.
These factors include whether mediation is appropriate in your case and whether you and the other party can compensate the mediator. Another factor is if there are any emergency circumstances that would make mediation inappropriate.
When mediation may be denied
Courts typically allow parties to mediate unless there are extreme circumstances that would make it inappropriate or futile. Generally, courts prefer that parties try to resolve issues between themselves before bringing them before a judge.
Depending on your circumstances, the court may order both parties to attend mediation even if no one requests it. However, you must be clearly notified that you are not required to accept an agreement or settle your case simply because you attended mediation.
What happens to our litigation?
Your case can continue to proceed through the litigation process even if you participate in mediation in the meantime.
You can still conduct discovery, attend pre-trial hearings or conferences, file any necessary emergency motions and take steps to keep your case moving forward through the court system. Mediation is not intended to halt or pause your court proceedings.
If your mediation petition is approved, your mediation will be scheduled, and you can begin to prepare. Although mediation is less formal than litigation, you should still be ready to present your evidence and argue your case.
A mediator does not decide your case the way a judge would. However, they provide feedback and help guide you toward a beneficial solution. If the other side is not willing to try mediation, filing a petition requesting it is a good idea.