Mediation of a Premises Liability Case
by Wayne Wilson, Esq.
Miles Mediation & Arbitration has handled a wide array of premises liability cases. And with good reason. A premises liability case is probably more suited for the mediation process than any other personal injury claim. Mediation is all about the elimination of risk for all parties concerned. And there can be no doubt that premises cases carry the greatest risks for plaintiffs and defendants alike.
Whether the property involved is a personal residence, a commercial property or public property the liability issues of negligence, knowledge, comparative/contributory negligence, assumption of risk, apportionment, etc. almost always come into play. Ordinarily, it is the property owner who is the defendant in a premises liability case. However, both commercial and residential property owners often lease all or part of their property to tenants, who may have responsibility, by the terms of a lease or otherwise, for property maintenance. Contractors working on, or who have worked on, the property involved may have responsibility for premises accidents. Management companies are often additional parties, as well as vendors making deliveries of products to stores. All of these entities face exposure for creating or allowing conditions to exist that might result in potential liability for the parties as well.
Add to the equation the likelihood that you have a “target/deep-pocket defendant” that might be loved, or loathed, by the general public, and the concept of “risk” creates dark shadows of uncertainty.
As an attorney or claims specialist, you deal with the many issues present in a premises liability case on a daily basis. These matters become somewhat common place as just part of your daily routine. You have the luxury of “time” to sit down, study, discuss, and work through the issues in order to arrive at a proper decision. But what of a lay person on a jury being asked to deal with all of these legal and factual issues in the heat of battle, commonly known as a jury trial? It is no wonder that perhaps no other type of case involves more jury verdict uncertainty, for plaintiffs, defendants and insurers alike, than premises liability matters.
Does anyone really want to place the decision regarding responsibility in these confusing situations in the hands of 12 strangers? If the answer to that question is “No”, then the mediation process wherein the parties with the greatest knowledge, interest, exposure, and fear have total control over the decision-making process is by far the best and most viable alternative for resolving the dispute in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
So why mediate the premises liability case at Miles Mediation?
The panel at Mile has mediators with many years of experience in dealing with premises liability mattrs, both as litigators and mediators. As litigators, we have had the “privilege” of great successes and “not-so great” defeats at the hands of juries. We have won cases we should have lost, and lost cases we should have won. And we have experience in matters (having either litigated cases of this nature and/or mediated such cases) including, but not limited to, the following:
- Slip/Trip & Fall – defective surfaces or foreign objects
- Defective stairways/steps/pavement
- Parking lots (uneven/pot holes/signage)
- Deck collapses
- Inadequate warning
- Snow and ice
- Swimming pools
- Store displays/falling objects
- Inadequate lighting
- Inadequate hand-rails
- Inadequate Security – nightclubs, bars, etc.
- False arrest/imprisonment/malicious prosecution cases
- Construction accidents
- Physical assault, including sexual assault.
- Major shopping malls, and stores w/in the mall
- Nursing homes
- Public property (streets, sidewalks, government buildings, etc.)
- Private residences
For many parties, an important advantage of mediation is the private resolution of their dispute. This is often the case where the reputation of the parties involved, whether a business which wants to protect its good name, or a plaintiff who might prefer to keep his or her name private due to the personal nature of an event. A related concern of some parties may be avoiding a reported decision where an adverse precedent would encourage the filing of additional cases against the defendant or create “bad law” for a plaintiff’s position.
Convenience- Eliminate Unecessary Time and Expense
The trial of a case is never at the convenience of the parties. It is at the convenience of the judge. Mediation provides the parties with the element of control. The time, manner and method of the process is within the control of the parties. This is a factor that can be very important for a plaintiff who is unfamiliar with the litigation process and sees it as his enemy rather than his friend. It is difficult having to deal with the personal issues involving the event – it can be even more onerous having to deal with the world of litigation in which he now finds himself.
For the Plaintiff – “Why has it taken me three years to get the case to trial?” For the Defendant – “I have a business to run.” For a witness – “This is not my fight. I don’t have time for this.” For everyone – “The costs are ridiculous. The only people who win in this game are the attorneys, and I don’t like attorneys.”
Eliminate Uncetainty and Risk
The elimination of uncertainty/risk is the most important factor in mediating a premises liability case. No other type of case involves more jury verdict uncertainty for plaintiffs, defendants, and insurers, than premises liability matters. It is only at Mediation that the parties can study their relative positions as to liability and damages through a lens of compromise and eliminate any uncertainty and risk of an unfavorable jury verdict.
Team Leader Wayne Wilson, Esq is a mediator and arbitrator with Miles in Atlanta. He has mediated more than 1,000 cases during his tenure with Miles. He specializes primarily in Premises Liability cases; Commercial Liability claims, Automobile/Trucking, Property Damage, and Subrogation Claims. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Wayne, please call 678-320-9118 or visit his online calendar.