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Bats, Rattlesnakes, and a Mine Shaft

California has always had a rich history of Mining and the Gold Rush and in particular, the counties and cities that make up the California Gold Country. Nevada City, Jackson, Angels Camp, Sonora. Columbia.

Mine shafts such as the Bunker Hill City in Amador County were dug deep following the veins of the Mother Lode. The Bonanza Mine in downtown Sonora and the veins and tunnels still exist today with rich deposit of Gold.

The men worked and played hard and migrated from every part of the Globe, “Gold Fever” was the ticket.

Immigrants from Italy, Ireland, Chilie, China, Mexico made up its new citizens.

At night the Italia Hotel in Sonora was popular for Buffalo Bock and Bohemian Beers and later outlawed during prohibition.

The Big Cities were San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento.

Outside Columbia, Salmon Swam upstream on the Stanislaus River and elegant meals were prepared at the City Hotel in Columbia.

The country life was not elegant and its natural habitat of critters of Bears, wildlife was abundant.

The hillsides today, still show signs of its rich history and mining. Critters such as Mountain Lions are abundant today.

The Sacramento couple dreamed of living the Country life and found 18 acres in the Gold Country complete with a hillside home. The sellers made a decision to sell and the buyers entered into a Real Estate Contract. Perhaps the buyers could have cried out “Eureka” a cry of joy or satisfaction when one finds or discovers something or “I found it”.

After close of escrow, the buyers were told by the Sellers, that since we live in a rural setting, we have “Bats, Rattlesnakes and a Mine Shaft”. Not your typical disclosure, of a leaking roof, plumbing issues or water seepage. The seller suggested that Bats eat insects and rattlesnake live under the front porch.

The buyers sought out Legal advice as they did not feel that they had full disclosures of “Material Facts” that would impact their decision to purchase their dream home.

In California Mediation is a first step for resolving disputes prior to Arbitration and often litigation. The mediation was difficult as each side had a position and remedies for Bats who were entering the home, was expensive as experts suggest the roof need to be removed as colonies have bats, We’re nesting and breeding.

The Rattlesnakes had at numerous times bitten the seller’s dogs.

In the Mediation a settlement could never be reached as from a monetary settlement there were huge gaps and walls. Professional Attorneys were hired and in all counts the divisions were wide and unresolvable. The buyer and buyer’s attorney made the decision for the next phase to seek Arbitration after the failure of the Mediation.

The December Mediation was not fun for any of the participants.

As we entered the Christmas holidays, the Mediator reached out to the attorneys for both buyers and sellers and suggested that the parties consider that the disputants consider a tool in the Mediators tool box of allowing the mediator to make a “Mediators Proposal” for settlement.

Many questions arose:

  • Would it be binding?
  • I don’t want to spend any more money.
  • We are $100,000 apart it’s just not going to work.
  • We are going to Arbitration
  • It’s Christmas and vacation time.
  • How can we trust your proposal?

The mediator had established good rapport and common respect with counsel. Each of us had good communications.

In the end the Mediator laid out his foundation, his ideas via a virtual setting surrounded by a Christmas Tree and holiday lights. Counsel was receptive, however cautious. New Year was approaching bats were flying in the interior of the home and leaving unwanted deposits. The rattlesnakes were dormant and the mine shaft was an open invitation for liability.

The silver lining and the cry of “Eureka” was found, the Buyers and Sellers accepted the Mediators Proposal.

Like following a gold vein, it takes work, dedication, commitment and risk. In the end this modern day “Gold Rush” and win-win, was an effort by all involved: The Buyers, the Sellers, the Attorneys and the neutral. A negotiated agreement was cinched.

There is “Gold” in Them Hills, past and present.


Jim Hildreth

Jim W Hildreth is both a private and court appointed mediator, who's specialty is "Real Estate' Disputes. He has over 40 years of experience and is licensed as a Broker in both California & Louisiana. He is an also an "Expert Witness" in California Superior Courts. When not mediating, his… MORE >

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