• Resolutions: A Conversation About Mediation Strategies
    Resolutions · Take 5: A Conversation About Mediation Strategies Resolution: A Podcast About Dispute Resolution and Prevention is a bi-monthly podcast hosted by rotating staff at the American Bar Association. In this episode, Resolution’s newest host, Caroline Stauffer, speaks with Anne Goyette, Arbitrator, Mediator, and principal of Griffiths Goyette about strategic approaches to mediation. This podcast was originally published on the American Bar Association Podcast Hub on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
  • Take Five
    Litigation can be expensive, time consuming and stress inducing. Covid-19 restrictions are exacerbating these conditions. Mediation is an alternative that empowers litigants,  counsel and insurance professionals to minimize risks, expand options and optimize  outcomes. Rather than relying on the opinions and biases of judges and jurors, prepared  mediation participants gain the opportunity to control and shape the resolution of their  dispute.  Here are five key steps to a productive and successful mediation. Know Your Case  Counsel should develop a solid understanding of the dispute’s pertinent facts and  issues well in advance of mediation. A judicially appointed referee or Special Master …
  • Virtual ADR Relief Zooming In
    Covid-19 has closed businesses, moved school instruction online, delayed surgeries and created suffering and health fears throughout the United States. To say the least, the last two months have been very challenging. With civil trials suspended, Covid-19 also has significantly disrupted civil litigation. It is unclear how civil jury trials will be handled once the stay in place orders are lifted. How will courts address social distancing concerns to safeguard court personnel, attorneys and litigants? Will courts assemble jurors before widespread testing or vaccines are available? Criminal matters, unlawful detainers and preference cases likely will be prioritized. Meanwhile, the backlog of civil cases is growing. Covid-19 related litigation itself is expected to add significantly to the courts’ already heavy caseload. Further continuances of existing court dates are anticipated. More delays and increased litigation costs will follow.
  • Special Masters streamline the dispute resolution process, minimizing the costs, delays and risks of complex cases such as construction defects
    The fire started just above the first floor ceiling. Workers renovating the seven-story historic hotel fled the smoke-filled stairway, stumbling and falling on the way. Aerosol paint cans exploded from the heat, and the fire grew to three alarms. Firefighters blasted the 100-year-old building with water and successfully extinguished the flames. Unfortunately, the hotel suffered extensive damage from the fire, smoke and suppression efforts. Rain later doused the interiors through the open roof and windows. Mold grew. Lead paint flaked and peeled off the walls. The hotel owners performed millions in repairs. They resolved an insurance claim with their carrier and then sued the renovation contractor for remaining fire and breach of contract damages. The general contractor in turn sued the subcontractors suspected of starting the fire and their insurance carriers. Liability was hotly contested. The general placed a lien against the building, served stop notices and sued the hotel group for unpaid contract balances; the subcontractors also sued for sums due. Five actions for personal injuries and subrogation followed. Two years after the initial filing, significant investigation and litigation costs had been incurred. Counsel disagreed on how to address “threshold” legal and factual issues. The parties anticipated taking roughly 70 percipient depositions and filing motions to bifurcate and/or motions for summary adjudication/judgment. The Superior Court consolidated the eight cases, set, and then vacated, a trial date. The Superior Court subsequently appointed a Special Master.
  • Building Settlements in Construction-Defect Cases
    Passing the buck is the usual defense strategy, and a Special Master may be needed to steer these cases towards settlement. Construction-defect cases typically involve large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Each player has its own goals. The property owner wants maximum funds to repair defects and cover losses. The builder disputes both plaintiff’s repair scope and associated costs and seeks to pass plaintiff’s claims onto subcontractors. The subcontractors concentrate on minimizing alleged damages and shifting responsibility. The design professionals distinguish between construction errors and design issues. Attorneys challenge pleadings, decipher contracts, pursue claims and assert defenses.…
  • Complex neighbors: Santa Cruz & Santa Clara
    Santa Clara County is the most populated county in the San Francisco Bay Area with close to 1.9 million people. The county is home to cutting edge Silicon Valley and boasts a median household income of $93,854. Santa Clara County Superior Court had 24,576 civil filings in 2013-2014 with roughly 250 complex civil cases. The court’s 2015-2016 fiscal year budget is just over $103 million. In comparison, Santa Cruz County has an estimated population of 272,000. The county is known for beautiful beaches and agriculture and has a median household income of $66,923. In 2013-14, Santa Cruz had 3,562 civil…
  • Effective Settlement Strategies for Construction Defect Cases
    No one starts a war, or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so, without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan. – Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Construction defect cases typically involve large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Each player has its own goals. The property owner wants maximum funds to repair defects and cover losses. The builder disputes both plaintiff’s repair scope and associated costs and seeks…
  • Using Special Masters in Santa Clara
    Complex construction defect cases often require a neutral to work with parties during the pretrial phase Litigationa Multiparty construction defect cases often require exceptional judicial management because they involve complex factual and legal issues and include large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Litigants frequently retain a referee or special master to work with the complex litigation judge by providing case management, addressing discovery disputes and/or facilitating settlements of these cases. This article is the fifth in a series that analyzes how different Bay Area courts utilize special masters in complex construction defect cases. Santa Clara County Superior…
  • Active Settlement Construction
    Construction defect cases typically involve large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Each player has its own goals. The property owner wants maximum funds to repair defects and cover losses. The builder disputes both plaintiff’s repair scope and associated costs and seeks to pass plaintiff’s claims onto subcontractors. The subcontractors concentrate on minimizing alleged damages and shifting responsibility. The design professionals distinguish between construction errors and design issues. A mediator can steer these players towards resolution by preparing them for meaningful settlement discussions in advance of the mediation. First, discuss with the participants the necessary parties and their…
  • Using Special Masters in Contra Costa
    Complex construction defect cases often require a neutral to work with parties during the pretrial phase Litigation Fourth article in a series that analyzes how different Bay Area courts utilize special masters in complex construction defect cases. Contra Costa County Superior Court has approximately 180 cases pending in its complex litigation department. Class actions and cases involving eight or more parties are generally referred to the complex department. Counsel may also apply for a court order designating the case complex by checking the boxes on the civil case cover sheet. If there is a question as to whether a case…
  • Using Special Masters in San Francisco
    Complex construction defect cases often require a neutral to work with parties during the pretrial phase Third article in a series that analyzes how different Bay Area courts utilize special masters in complex construction defect cases. San Francisco Superior Court has approximately 300 to 400 cases pending in its two complex litigation departments; many of these line items are Judicial Council Coordinated Proceedings that involve multiple cases. When filing a construction defect case, plaintiff may apply for a court order designating the case complex by checking the complex designation boxes on the civil case cover sheet and filing an application…
  • Using Special Masters in San Mateo
    Multiparty construction defect cases often require exceptional judicial management because they involve complex factual and legal issues and include large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Litigants frequently retain a referee or special master to work with the complex litigation judge by providing case management, addressing discovery disputes and/or facilitating settlements of these cases. This article is the second in a series that analyzes how different Bay Area courts utilize special masters in complex construction defect cases. San Mateo County Superior Court currently has approximately 25 complex construction defect cases. More than 85 percent of these cases utilize…
  • Using Special Masters in Alameda
    Multiparty construction defect cases often require exceptional judicial management because they involve complex factual and legal issues and include large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Litigants frequently retain a referee or special master to work with the complex litigation judge by providing case management, addressing discovery disputes and/or facilitating settlements of these cases. This article is the first in a series that analyzes how different Bay Area courts utilize special masters in complex construction defect cases. Alameda County Superior Court has approximately 280 cases pending in its two complex litigation departments. This total does not include multiple…
  • Settlement of Construction Defect Cases From the Perspective of a Special Master and Mediator
    Construction defect cases typically involve large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Each player has its own goals. The property owner wants maximum funds to repair defects and cover losses. The builder disputes both plaintiff’s repair scope and associated costs and seeks to pass plaintiff’s claims onto subcontractors. The subcontractors concentrate on minimizing alleged damages and shifting responsibility. The design professionals distinguish between construction errors and design issues. Attorneys challenge pleadings, decipher contracts, pursue claims, and assert defenses. Insurers highlight policy language to define covered losses and involve other carriers to share the risk. Experts bring technical insight…
  • Settlement Construction
    Construction defect cases typically involve large numbers of parties, attorneys, insurance companies and experts. Each player has its own goals. The property owner wants maximum funds to repair defects and cover losses. The builder disputes both plaintiff’s repair scope and associated costs and seeks to pass plaintiff’s claims onto subcontractors. The subcontractors concentrate on minimizing alleged damages and shifting responsibility. The design professionals distinguish between construction errors and design issues. Attorneys challenge pleadings, decipher contracts, pursue claims, and assert defenses. Insurers highlight policy language to define covered losses and involve other carriers to share the risk. Experts bring technical insight…
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