- Florida Bar (1993 – present)
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (1994 – present)
- AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell
Florida Bar Board Certified in Workers’ Compensation
- Florida Bar Workers’ Compensation Section Newsletter Editor (2013 – 2018)
- Florida Bar Workers’ Compensation Section Executive Council Member (2015-2019)
Mediation as a Tool
Most litigants are required to mediate at some point during the process of a case. Some litigants, however, fail to take full advantage of the opportunity. Mediation certainly provides a forum for courteous discourse in which parties can seek to resolve a case entirely. However, in my opinion, mediation is an underutilized tool in the litigation process. Much more can be accomplished through mediation than simply reaching a settlement agreement or not.
“This is your mediation” is something you will likely hear me tell parties during the process. What I mean by this statement is that the mediation process should be more than just “horse trading” and “message carrying.” Even in cases where a settlement seems remote, mediation provides an opportunity to discuss issues less global than whether or not to settle for a given dollar amount. Sometimes mediation is a stepping stone on the way to a global resolution. Often disputes along the road to trial can be discussed if that is where a case is heading. Listening to and exploring the opposing party’s statements both connected to the litigation and not connected to the litigation at hand can be invaluable to building common ground in the future. And, perhaps most overlooked, mediation is a confidential forum for a party to speak out and be heard or acknowledged.
As a participant in thousands of mediations over my nearly three decades of practice, one of my most memorable experiences was a mediation involving a catastrophic injury which I thought had no chance to resolve. After quickly assessing the opening positions, the skilled mediator never approached the case with an angle towards achieving a settlement. Rather, by exploring issues which may have appeared “under the water mark” to most, we made progress, through this open-minded approach. Little by little, the parties did find common ground on many issues, which ultimately plowed the fields and sowed the seeds for a global resolution that day.
This experience indelibly changed my personal approach to mediation. Parties fund mediation and are mostly required to appear. Therefore, no matter how far apart the parties may appear outside of mediation, it is my earnest belief the participants should use the opportunity for a facilitated open discourse to the fullest extent possible, even in cases where a global resolution appears unlikely. The results just might be surprising.
I attended only the University of Florida, receiving my BA in Sociology in 1989, a Master’s Degree in Sociology in 1993 and my Juris Doctorate in 1993 as well. Opting to pay bills instead of pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology, I began my legal career with Holland & Knight, where I practiced workers’ compensation defense. I continued in my defense practice as a founding partner of the firm which came to be known as Harbsmeier, DeZayas, Appel, Harden & DeBari until 2005 when I ventured out on my own as the Appel Law Group, P.A. From 2005 forward I began representing all sides in injury related litigation, including employers, carriers and injured parties in workers’ compensation and personal injury litigation. Gradually my practice expanded into other aspects of employment law litigation including wage and hour disputes, retaliation/discrimination cases, OSHA/MSHA litigation and employment contract disputes. During my career I have also handled many significant appellate cases for clients. I continue to practice in litigation in matters involving injuries or employment disputes. In each of these areas, I’ve found open dialogue, professional courtesy and the ability to view a case from any angle to be an asset which I endeavor to bring into the mediation process for other litigants.
I am actively serving the following Florida counties: Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, DeSoto, Duval, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. John’s, Sumter and Volusia.