Litigation vs. Mediation

Dispute resolution: litigation v. mediation

In business, it’s common for disputes to arise. Developing cost effective strategies for dispute resolution is critical for achieving a healthy bottom line. Because employers and business owners generally seek to avoid litigation (it is time consuming, expensive and emotionally draining), mediation has become more common.  The below summary compares the differences between mediation and litigation and provides insights as to why the popularity of mediation is on the rise.

Employers and Business Owners understand

Litigation – Refers to a formal process that uses either state or federal court to resolve the dispute. To determine the court, you must examine the claim(s) asserted, the amount at issue and where the parties reside. Though you filed your claim with the court, the judge may require the parties attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation.

Mediation – Refers to an informal and confidential process that uses a neutral third-party, the mediator, to help the parties discuss their differences and consider potential solutions to those differences. If the parties cannot reach an agreement “that both parties can live with,” you still have the right to file a claim with the appropriate court to have a judge or jury determine the outcome of your case.

Where is the process held?

Litigation – Hearings are held telephonically or in the court room.

Mediation – You and the other party determine if the mediation is held at your counsel’s office, opposing counsel’s office, the courthouse, the mediator’s office, or even virtually. Depending upon the mediator’s and/or the parties’ preferences, the parties may be placed in the same room or in separate rooms. If in separate rooms, the mediator will walk between the rooms and present each party’s positions, thoughts and arguments to the other party.

Are the conversations confidential?

Litigation – Correspondence is not confidential and can be used as evidence at a hearing unless the correspondence is related to negotiations between both parties’ counsel to resolve the dispute.

Mediation – Correspondence and evidence presented during a mediation session is confidential and cannot be used by the other party as evidence at a hearing.  The mediator cannot be called to testify and will maintain the confidentiality of everything learned through the mediation.

What is the length of the process?

Litigation – The litigation process typically takes 2-3 years to reach a court judgment. The case may extend beyond 3 years if multiple motions are filed and depending on how complicated the claims are.

Mediation – The mediation process typically takes less than a year, and can sometimes be resolved within weeks. It often depends on the mediator chosen and schedules of all involved. Sometimes, you may attend multiple mediation sessions if both parties are continuing to progress towards a resolution.

Who determines the outcome?

Litigation – Judge or Jury. Besides presenting your case, the outcome is completely out of your hands and in the hands of the judge or jury.

Mediation – You. The mediator does not tell you who is right or wrong. The mediator does not render a decision. The Mediator is there to guide the conversation between you and the other party. Ultimately, you are the one presenting, crafting and responding to potential solutions. You are the one making the decision to accept or decline a solution. The outcome of the mediation is in your hands.

What is the potential outcome?

Litigation – The judge or jury determines a winner and a loser. The judge or jury determines the damages owed to the winner based on claims presented, case law and statutes.

Mediation – Both parties are winners. The parties, of their own accord, mutually decide to end the dispute and accept an outcome that both can live with at the end of the day.

What will the process cost?

Litigation – Below are conservative estimates of costs expected to reach a court judgment in Wisconsin courts. The costs will vary depending on the complexity of your claims and/or the dispute itself. For instance, if your case requires expert witnesses, you will pay more than the estimated costs. Also, the opposing party and/or counsel may cause your counsel to have to submit motions and briefs, which will increase your costs above the estimated costs. Remember, though, that you and the opposing party may settle the dispute prior to receiving a court judgment.

Court Filed in Represented by Counsel Costs
Small Claims Yes Filing Fees plus $5,000
Small Claims No Filing Fees
Large Claims Yes Filing Fees plus $25,000 – $50,000
Large Claims No Filing Fees
Federal Claims Yes Filing Fees plus $30,000 – $60,000

**Wisconsin and Federal Courts require companies be represented by counsel in Large Claims.

Mediation – Mediators usually charge between $250 – $350 per hour. If your case requires knowledge of a unique field or industry, the mediator may charge more than $350 per hour.

What about receiving my legal fees?

Litigation – Whether you receive legal fees depends on statutes, contract language and the discretion of the judge. If statutory or contract language allows the winning party to receive legal fees, the judge will determine the reasonable legal fees that the losing party will pay. The table below shows what you will receive if the judge awards legal fees.

Court Filed in Legal Fees
Small Claims $150 if judgment in favor; $300 if represented at trial and judgment in favor
Large Claims Reasonable fees – depends on contract and/or statutory language
Federal Claims Reasonable fees – depends on contract and/or statutory language

Mediation – Whether you receive legal fees depends on the other party’s willingness to agree to pay your legal fees. Most likely, the other party will not explicitly agree to pay your legal fees.

How do I locate a mediator?

The state bar association has a list of mediators who can be contacted for an appointment. However, it is advisable to work with your attorney first to determine if mediation is right for your case.  Your attorney will spend time investigating and selecting the right mediator for your case.

Would you like to learn more about mediation? Contact us here. Epiphany Law Partner Heather Macklin is an accredited mediator with over 20 years of litigation and dispute resolution experience.

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