In the successful Case Ambassador Program, a mediator — who serves as case ambassador — and our case managers work with counsel before the mediation. They help parties identify and resolve behind-the-scenes issues, settlement inhibitors and other potential problems that may prevent settlement at mediation. Complex multi-party matters, mass-tort, construction, insurance layers/coverage, sexual abuse and subrogation disputes often benefit from this program.
Why does this approach work, and how does it help deeply divided parties come together?
“It starts with honesty and transparency,” said Alex Goodrich, senior vice president of risk management at ADR Systems. “Counsel can speak with the case ambassador and me about a case in ways they can’t with opposing counsel or even their client. They trust us with information about intra-party issues that may prevent a smooth path to settlement.
The case ambassador helps parties work through pre-mediation conflicts; however, this work is not as simple as standard pre-mediation contact. Instead, the case ambassador discusses issues with some or all parties. They may offer suggestions and strategies and often provide opinions on the issues, which could include an independent coverage analysis. Some of the issues a case ambassador helps to address include:
- Divergent perspectives on value, distribution of liability, etc.
- Situations involving multiple carriers or insurers
- Client issues
- Debates about offers/demands before the mediation
- Presumptions among parties that they are too far apart to settle
“The goal from these pre-mediation sessions in the case ambassador model is to define the issues and focus the negotiations so that one of the only questions left for the day of mediation – if not the only question – is how to value the case,” said Hon. Larry G. Axelrood, (Ret.), senior mediator and arbitrator at ADR Systems.
Judge Axelrood speaks of the value of “pre-mediation sessions” for a particular reason: Disputes mediated through the Case Ambassador Program chart a more efficient path to settlement. Complex cases not run through the program often require multiple mediation sessions over the course of weeks or months to work through all the issues preventing a settlement, and parties run the risk of pulling back. The Case Ambassador Program seeks to avoid that circuitous path to settlement by pressing the issues to the forefront.
“Case ambassadors divide the settlement process into specific parts, helping parties navigate the process more efficiently,” said Judge Axelrood. “Without that pre-mediation communication, some extremely complex cases would be more difficult to settle.”
Timing and patience, therefore, are requisite to settlement through the Case Ambassador Program. Counsel should contact ADR Systems early about engaging the program, giving case ambassadors ample time to review the issues and devise a path to mediation for the parties that fully address the potential stumbling blocks. Without going through this process, the mediation may be bogged down by the very problems that could have been mitigated beforehand.
To learn more about the Case Ambassador Program, click here.
Hon, Larry G. Axelrood, (Ret.) has extensive experience with medical malpractice, nursing home, railroad, legal malpractice, premises liability, construction and personal injury matters. Having served on the Evanston Police Pension Board and the Illinois Judges Association Pension and Benefits Committee, Judge Axelrood also has in-depth experience with pensions and their impact on various types of cases.
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