How Mediation Works In Texas Dram Shop Cases.
Before a dram shop case can proceed to trial, most Texas courts will require that the plaintiffs and defendants go through a process of formal, supervised negotiation, known as mediation, as a final attempt to avoid costly, drawn out litigation. The objective of this process is neither establishing who was at fault for what happened, nor compromising your ability to obtain fair compensation for your losses. Rather, it is a procedure in which the plaintiff and the defendant, overseen by a neutral third party, conduct negotiations in an attempt to resolve the matter under dispute in a way that is fair to both parties.
With that being said, Grossman Law Offices tends to set the bar extremely high in mediation and expect the defendant to jump over it. If they decline to do so, we're happy to take them to trial and get much more substantial damages that way. Most of the time, however, the defendant doesn't want to go to trial against our firm due to our track record of success, and winds up paying our client a settlement that everyone is happy with.
Questions answered on this page:
- What is mediation and why is it mportant?
- What role does the mediator play in a Texas Dram Shop mediation?
- What is the difference between mediation and a regular jury trial?
When you file a claim against a bar for injuries you sustained in a drunk driving accident, you have the burden of proving both that the bar caused your injuries and the extent to which you were injured.
After a lawsuit is filed, the claim is investigated, discovery is conducted (the legal process where the parties exchange information relating to the case), and then you present this information to the defendant, along with a demand letter, or a request for some amount of money that will make you whole. Naturally, most defendants will not just pony up the money requested right then and there. They will mount a defense and stonewall, forcing you to go to the courthouse. Mediation is our justice system's final, mandated attempt to avoid the time and expense of trial.
What is mediation and why is it important?
Mediation is an informal non binding meeting between representatives of the parties to a lawsuit. The plaintiff and any defendants involved are present, along with a mediator. It is an opportunity for all sides to get together, discuss the case, and hopefully negotiate a congenial settlement, prior to going through the expense of trial. The process is considered nonbinding because, even when mediation is over, it may not result in a binding agreement that both parties are willing to agree to. While they will do their best to help the two sides meet in the middle, the mediator does not make a ruling dictating what must happen in the same way a judge would at the end of a trial.
Who is the mediator?
The mediator can be anyone: it is not a requirement of the law that he or she has any experience with the law, or with dram shop cases. However, generally speaking the mediator is a former judge who has presided over hundreds of cases similar to those under mediation, and prior to becoming a judge, will have often litigated many of them as well. This is a person that understands the law in these cases, and how it works in your jurisdiction. The best mediators are people to whom both sides will listen, and whose opinion both sides of the claim will respect.
How mediation works in Texas dram shop cases.
In general, the mediation process can take as little as a few hours or stretch over several days, but most mediations for dram shop cases last about a day. However long they wind up taking, mediations generally follow the same format. They begin with a joint session, after which the parties split up into individual caucuses.
At the joint session, both sides will have the opportunity to make a presentation about their case. Most attorneys will use this to let the other side know why they think they have a good case. Usually, this is a very short presentation because discovery has already been exchanged and both sides have a pretty good idea of the merits (or lack thereof) of the other party's case.
In the individual caucuses, the parties are split up into their own private rooms and the mediator goes back and forth to each side, discussing the facts of the claim, both good and bad, and how those facts relate to the law. The mediator will also convey offers back and forth. This is where the influence of a mediator is often at its highest. As he or she is discussing how the law relates to the facts of the case, the mediator will let the the parties know what he or she thinks will happen in court. The mediator may say, "as I understand the case, this could be really bad for your client, you may want to raise your offer," to the defense. Or he or she may say to the plaintiff, "your case is not as strong as you think, and here is why..." The plaintiff may then choose to reduce their demand.
If all parties can agree to a settlement, it's written up, submitted to the Court and the case is essentially over. If settlement is not reached, the mediator will write a mediator's proposal. A mediator's proposal is a written compromise that the mediator suggests both sides accept. Remember: mediation is nonbinding, so the mediator's proposal is just a suggestion. At that point, if the mediator's proposal is not heeded, the case then proceeds to trial.
How Grossman Law Offices is different.
At Grossman Law Offices, we approach mediation differently than most firms. First, we don't take a case as far as mediation without the intent to take it all the way to trial. Our approach to the joint session is not to do a quick presentation and then hope the other side makes a good offer. Rather, we bombard the defense with our evidence, provide them the expert reports, witness statements, medical records, and in some cases, video presentations. Our joint sessions are often several hours long. They are mini versions of what we will present at trial. So why do we go through that much trouble during the initial joint session?
We want to drive home to the defense how strong our case actually is, and to make certain that they know we are prepared to go the distance for you, our client. However, this is not the main reason we do it. We do it to influence and educate the mediator. Remember the mediator is usually someone who fully understands dram shop cases. They are someone who is well respected and will be listened to by both sides. When we show the mediator how strong your case is, the mediator can then become almost an additional advocate for you. This allows us to be on the offensive during the individual caucuses, to drive the negotiating process and, in the end, get better offers and better results on your claim.
In order for your dram shop case to have any chance of success, you must find a competent and experienced attorney to help you with your case. You need someone in your corner that will take full advantage of every aspect of the legal process to achieve a positive result for you. The drunk driving and dram shop attorneys of Grossman Law Offices have mediated countless dram shop cases, and sued lots of bars, achieving strong results for our clients. If you need any help with your dram shop case, call us toll free at (855) 326-0000.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- Texas Dram Shop Law: Alcohol Poisoning
- You Can Sue A Liquor Store In A Texas Dram Shop Case
- Texas Dram Shop Litigation Strategy: Pre-suit Preparation