$0.00 – $6.00
Karen Falkenstein Green
Three-person small-claims mediation between a motorist and a city attorney regarding liability for damage to the motorist's automobile due to a pothole
Alex Gator, a young salesperson, has a car that was damaged when Alex drove it into a large hole in a city street. Alex claims that the City of Quincy is responsible for the damage, since no warning signs were posted near the hole, which was part of a city construction project. The city, represented by a hard-nosed, part-time city attorney, does not really doubt Alex's story, but claims no legal liability under applicable statutes. Both sides have agreed to mediation, but have only a limited time to discuss the case, before it is called before a judge in Small Claims Court.
The agenda for the mediation is left up to the mediator, and may include separate meetings with each party, joint conferences, or both. The session needs 60 to 90 minutes. "A Brief Outline of the Mediation Process," Case No. 15003.0 in Other Materials, is useful background reading for the mediator. "An Actual Small Claims Mediated Agreement," Case No. 15004.0 in Other Materials, is useful as follow-up reading, especially if mediators have been asked to draft the agreement reached. (Hand it out after the mediators have finished their own try at drafting.)
- This case tests a mediator's skill at information-gathering and reality testing. Both sides are withholding important information that can most likely be elicited only by skillful questioning.
- The mediator must also be a skilled negotiator. The city attorney is a polished hard bargainer. Alex is a young person determined to see a just and principled result, not a compromise under pressure.
- Detailed review of precise language, ordering of issues, use of caucuses, and framing of issues can be enormously rewarding. Close observation and/or videotaping is invaluable, although even student-student review is useful.
- The role of "face-saving" and legitimacy is highlighted in the (conflicting) interests of both sides.
- Confidential Instructions for the:
- Plaintiff, Alex Gator
- Defendant, City of Quincy
- The Mediator
- All of the above
Caucusing; Drafting; Fairness; Interpersonal skills; Legitimacy; Mediation; Meeting design; Objective criteria; One-text procedure; Partisan perceptions; Precedents; Reality testing; Risk aversion; Risk perception
Gator v. City of Quincy Attributes
|Time required:||1-2 hours|
|Number of participants:||3|
|Neutral third party present:||Mediator|
|Teaching notes available:||No|