Workers’ Compensation: Mediation - An Emerging Trend in Workers’ Compensation Court Appeals
By Scott W Gedeon
Recently, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas joined a growing list of courts that have begun utilizing court-ordered mediation in an attempt to resolve workers’ compensation appeals. Through mediation, a trained mediator will work with the parties to reach a mutually beneficial resolution to litigation. In the context of a workers’ compensation appeal, the mediator works with the parties to negotiate a financial settlement that is acceptable to the injured worker, employer, and Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
The mediation process is fairly standard throughout Ohio’s courts. Approximately one week prior to mediation, the parties will file a mediation statement that gives their respective positions on the merits of the case and their position on settlement. The parties will then come together with the mediator at the courthouse. At the outset of mediation, with the parties together, the mediator will ask the parties to give a brief statement outlining the strengths of their case and what they hope to accomplish through mediation.
The mediator will then split the parties up and “caucus” with each party privately to get a better understanding of their case and to begin the process of communicating settlement demands and offers between the parties. As negotiations begin, the mediator works as a “go between,” communicating additional offers, demands, and information between the parties who remain segregated from each other. Good mediators will take an active role in “bridging the gap” between the parties and stress the “give and take” that is often necessary to reach settlements.
If a settlement is reached, the mediator will have the parties sign an entry for the court stating that the case has settled. If mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator will report to the court that a settlement was not reached and the case will return to the court’s active docket. Ohio law does require that in the event a settlement is not reached, the communications made during mediation remain confidential and are inadmissible during trial.
Mediation remains a cost-effective and often productive means to resolving workers’ compensation disputes. While participation in court-ordered mediation is mandatory, the employer is certainly not obligated to agree to a settlement that adversely impacts its workers’ compensation premiums or is otherwise unacceptable to the employer.
If your company has questions regarding mediation or workers’ compensation litigation in general, please do not hesitate to contact Scott Gedeon or any of the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at RBS.