Karen Falkenstein GreenThree-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:
- Teams involved:
- Agent present:
- Neutral third party present:
- Teaching notes available:
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center
Soft copy vs. hard copy
You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.
If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.
For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).
Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at email@example.com, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.
Ordering a single copy for review
If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.
Ordering copies for multiple participants
To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.
If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.
In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.