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To Avoid A Claim For Malpractice, California Court Says Keep Your Mediator Present At All Times

Both the mediation and legal communities in California are abuzz about the Court of Appeals decision in Cassel v. Superior Court (Cal. App. 2 Dist. November 12, 2009)which held that attorney client communications are not protected from becoming evidence when they take place at mediation if the mediator isn’t in the room at the time of the communication. Apparently, a well respected lawfirm, Wasserman, Camden and Comden, strongly urged it’s client, Mr. Cassel, to accept a $1 million settlement during a private meeting at the mediation. Mr. Cassel agreed and the settlement was drawn up. Now Mr. Cassel is claiming his lawyers coerced him into the settlment and in doing so, breached their fiduciary duty to him. Not only does he seek to unravel the settlement, but seeks additional damages from his attorneys. The Court created a judicial exception to the confidentiality statue where the communication was solely between lawyer and client. Lesson? Lawyer beware. Never let the mediator out of your sight lest your advice, if accepted, maybe subject to later challenges. And your settlement may be unenforceable. Sounds like a good deal for mediators, and a raw deal for mediation confidentiality. Lots to think about on this one.

                        author

Jan Frankel Schau

Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the… MORE >

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