What is a Settlement Conference?
After a lawsuit is filed, but before it goes to trial, the parties are generally required to attend a settlement conference. A settlement conference is a meeting that is held with a mediator behind closed doors. It is a final effort to resolve a dispute before trial.
Review the Details of the Case
Although your attorney may request a settlement conference, in most cases the judge will order that a conference be held even if neither side asks for one. The conference may be held with a private mediator, with the cost generally shared equally between by both parties. If the parties do not request a private mediator, the judge will appoint a local attorney to be the mediator, or in some cases, appoint another judge to carry out that role. Both parties are required to provide a memorandum to the court at least five days before the date of the conference. The memorandum should lay out the major issues of the case, state your position on those issues, and describe the evidence that you intend to present at trial. The memorandum should also summarize previous settlement negotiations that have taken place.
All Parties Must Attend the Conference
All parties must attend the settlement conference, along with their attorneys. Additionally, where legal claims may be covered by an insurance policy, representatives of the insurance company generally must be present, as well. All parties need to come with authority to compromise and settle their claims or defenses. During the settlement conference, the mediator will meet separately with the parties and attempt to persuade them to soften their positions and thus arrive at a compromised that will eliminate the need for further litigation. The mediator has no authority to force either side to settle, but can only try to convince the parties to find a way to resolve their dispute.
Settlement Discussions Are Kept Confidential
Settlement conferences allow parties to openly discuss the issues in dispute. These discussions are kept confidential. The memorandum of the meeting is not allowed in court, should the matter proceed to trial. Your attorney will likely meet with you to review the issues that will be discussed prior to the conference. Always confer with your attorney before making any statements during a conference.
Rules of Civil Procedures Apply
It is important to remember that the meeting is governed by the applicable Arizona rules of civil procedures. Parties are expected to behave appropriately. The parties must follow the laws. The judge may order sanctions if a party fails to attend the meeting, or does not participate in good faith. Sanctions may include a variety of penalties including the reimbursement of fees incurred due to the noncompliance of the other party.
Civil litigation can be complex. If you are involved in a legal matter, consult with the skilled legal team at Udall Shumway PLC to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Settlement Conference, or any other commercial litigation matters, please feel free to contact Joel E. Sannes at 480.461.5307, or log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.