$0.00 – $6.00
Karen Falkenstein Green
Three-person small claims court mediation between a rug company owner and a customer over the return of a made-to-order rug
A custom-made, oval-shaped rug was purchased from Andy Onembo at the Benjamin Rug Company by Bill Runyon. Runyon initially made a $50 down payment, and one week later paid the balance of $139. Both payments were by check, on an account held jointly with his former foster mother, Betty Lebeau. When Runyon presented the rug as a gift to Mrs. Lebeau, she expressed her gratitude, but believed the rug to be too expensive. Mrs. Lebeau decided to take the gift back. On the day of the return, Onembo stated that the customers should at least pay the $7 freight cost. An argument ensued, during which Mrs. Lebeau became infuriated. Eventually, she left the store with the rug still in her car. She then canceled both the checks. Andy Onembo sued Runyon and Lebeau in small claims court. The claim has now been referred to mediation.
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 as 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 any agreement reached. (Hand this out after the mediators have finished their own try at drafting).
- This case severely tests a mediator's skill in reality testing. Both sides hold strong views about the facts, a fair outcome, and each other, and are strong-willed and stubborn in general.
- 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 analyzing those solutions that are reached.
For all parties:
- Basic Fact Sheet
Confidential Information for:
- Plaintiff, Andy Onembo
- Defendant, Betty Lebeau
- All of the above
Caucusing; Credibility; Drafting; Emotions; Interpersonal skills; Mediation; Meeting design; Objective criteria; Partisan perceptions; Reality testing; Risk aversion
Onembo and Benjamin Rug Co. v. Runyon and Lebeau Attributes
|Time required:||1-2 hours|
|Number of participants:||3|
|Neutral third party present:||Mediator|
|Teaching notes available:||No|