Description of Study: Study in three counties examining the effect of mediation on case flow and the effect of case status at the time of mediation on the probability of reaching agreement.
Method: Each of the three pilot sites provided 40 randomly-selected cases that were ordered to mediation under the pilot program and were disposed between March 1, 2007 and September 17, 2009.
Sample Size: 93 cases, 51 of which were mediated
Variables Examined: Time to disposition, impact of summary judgment on probability of reaching agreement, impact of setting a trial date on time to disposition.
Program Variables: Pilot program in which mediation is ordered for cases valued under $25,000 and the case evaluation award was rejected. Parties are allowed to select a private mediator. If they forego that option, the case is referred to a community mediation center for mediation by a volunteer with 40 hours of mediation skills training. Cases in the study were referred an average of 340 days after filing. 91% were referred to a community mediation center.
Case types: Civil, Commercial/Contract, Employment-Discrimination, Housing, Medical Malpractice/Negligence, Personal Injury, Real Estate/Property
Findings: Of the 93 cases referred to mediation, 5 were disposed of through summary judgment before mediation and another 32 (34%) settled prior to mediation. Of the 56 cases that went to mediation 30 (54%) settled at mediation, 9 settled through settlement conference post-mediation, and 6 settled after mediation. Of those that did not settle during or after mediation, 4 were disposed of through summary or default judgment and 7 went to trial. Cases that settled at mediation had an average disposition time of 403 days. The 7 cases that went to trial averaged 733 days to disposition.
The author states that there is limited evidence that a pending motion for summary judgment negatively affected settlement rates. The sample size was too small, however, to draw any conclusions. She also looked into whether early setting of trial dates led to early settlement. She found that there was not a strong connection between the two. Only 42.6% of the variance in case age at settlement could be attributed to case age at the time the trial date was set. However, the trial date was rescheduled in almost half of the cases in which the trial date was set early on.