The plaintiff walked into the conference room, a middle-aged person that appeared as a child carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Yet, encouraged by a support person and an attentive lawyer, the plaintiff able to share details about the impact that years of abuse by an authority figure had had on them. When each detail was shared it was though a little more weight lifted from their shoulders and they grew stronger.
Four months prior to the mediation, when the plaintiff first commenced proceedings, my client and I discussed the strategy to be adopted. There was no doubting that the abuse occurred, yet there were arguments available to my client to minimise or avoid liability; there was no doubting that real injuries had been suffered, yet there were causation arguments that could be investigated. However, it was recognised that it would be in neither parties’ interest for the matter to proceed to a full hearing.
The decision was made to work from the outset cooperatively and collaboratively with the plaintiff’s lawyer with resolution the focus – rather than lawyering up for an adversarial battle. We arranged an initial facilitated conference between the plaintiff and a senior member of the defendant institution. The lawyers conferred to acknowledge and outline, on a without prejudice basis, the potential liability and causation arguments, agree on focused evidence gathering, arrange a joint expert quantum report and set a mediation date to work towards. All investigations and examination were completed within 3 months, and at 4 months the mediation took place and the matter resolved within a few hours.
At the conclusion of the mediation the plaintiff expressed, in open session, that their sense of trust in the institution and the legal system had been restored – the plaintiff had been told to prepare for a lengthy battle with lawyers and insurers, and had relapsed several times before having the courage to commence proceedings.
However, by approaching the claim with a resolution focus, the process because streamlined and efficient. Legal costs were reduced, trauma to the plaintiff was minimised and the ultimate settlement adequately took into account the liability and causation issues. It really was a “win win”. My client then sent me several other claims to manage the same way – and the outcome was the same,
Since those matters, I regularly advised many of my clients on whether such an approach would be suitable. For some it was, for others it wasn’t. However, in the claims where a collaborative approach to resolution was adopted at the outset, the overall cost to the defendant was lower and the benefit to the plaintiff was immeasurable.
And it was from these experiences that the idea for R3 Resolutions was sparked. R3 Resolutions does not provide legal advice to parties, but rather by offering a range of services, from early facilitated conferences and/or focused evidence gathering (via traditional means or by utilising legal tech) to traditional trauma informed mediations, R3 Resolutions hopes to lead a cultural change to the resolution of civil claims, in particular institutional abuse, medical negligence and complex trauma claims – a shift away from the costly adversarial battle, towards a real focus on alternative dispute resolution.
If you would like to learn more about R3 Resolutions’ offering and approach, subscribe at www.r3resolutions.com.au; follow us on Linkedin and email our Principal, Julie Somerville on firstname.lastname@example.org.