Stop the Catfight: Mediation as an Alternative to Litigation

Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25-26

There is a principle here which applies not only to Christians but may also have universal application for all potential litigants. The principle is this: settling out of Court, whether by way of mediation or otherwise, is an excellent alternative to litigation where you may potentially have more to lose. Note: civil proceedings seldom lead to the losing party being thrown into jail, unless there was contempt of Court or committal proceedings.

Litigation need not be the only way to enforce your rights. Or even if you are sued, it is not always necessary to see things all the way through a full blown trial. The main alternatives are to mediate or to settle out of Court, whether before or after the lawsuit has been commenced. These two alternatives are described below.

Out of Court Settlement

This is done in private between parties, often through their lawyers. A good litigation lawyer is able to open the channels of communication, to keep it open while impressing on the other party the strengths of his client’s case, and to arrive at a favourable settlement on behalf of his client. It is akin to foretelling the likely decision of the Judge if the matter were to proceed to trial, and to settle somewhere along those lines, with the necessary concessions or compromises being made.

An out of Court settlement may be done before a lawsuit ever commences. Or it may also be achieved on the eve of trial or even during the trial itself, as is often the case. In fact, an estimated 9 out of every 10 lawsuits are settled out of Court (and through mediation, as described below).

Mediation or Court Dispute Resolution

This is done between parties in the presence of a mediator. The Subordinate Courts has an in-built opt-out mediation system called the Court Dispute Resolution (“CDR”), where the parties to most lawsuits undergo at some juncture a form of mediation before a CDR Judge, who may give a non-binding indication of the likely result if the matter were to go to trial, and then leave parties to try and settle along such indications. And many do.

Another form of mediation is with a trained mediator from the Singapore Mediation Centre. It must be emphasized that the mediator is not a judge, and does not deliver any decision. Rather, he assists parties to listen to one another and guides them in the process of achieving a win-win settlement. And the success rate is rather high. Around 70% of cases which go through SMC mediations are amicably settled. Alternatively, parties may also consider mediation with a private mediator. Just like out of Court settlements, mediation may take place before or after proceedings have commenced.

Conclusion

But you may wonder: “why should I mediate or settle out of court?”

In short, it is to save time, costs and to avoid the stress, publicity and uncertainty of litigation, while at the same time achieving, insofar as you are willing to compromise, a significant and acceptable percentage of your underlying goals or objectives in connection with making a claim or defending one. These countervailing forces must be balanced, carefully considered, and discerned before agreeing to any settlement, whether out of court or through mediation.

You may then move on with life, instead of being embroiled in lengthy, sometimes bitter litigation. I was involved in a family inheritance dispute which spanned almost two decades involving assets worldwide. After some skilful and lengthy mediation, the family members finally arrived at a settlement, and have finally began to move on with their lives.

At the end of the day, such amicable settlements may leave you with one less enemy, or even better, regain a friend or family member.

 

See also the 6 Key Considerations before Suing Someone, Part 1 and Part 2. Many of these factors are applicable in deciding whether to mediate or settle out of Court.

The usual disclaimer: All opinions expressed on www.singaporelitigationlawyer.com are entirely my own. Importantly, my opinions do not constitute legal advice and you should definitely formally engage a lawyer to confirm, vary or refute my views.

To Sue or Not to Sue: Demystifying Litigation in Singapore @ www.singaporelitigationlawyer.com © Dominic Chan, a Singapore litigation lawyer. All rights reserved.

The picture above is taken from ©Free Range Stock.

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