Our monthly e-newsletter Court ADR Connection has updates on RSI’s activities, cutting-edge ADR research, and the latest court ADR news from across the country. As we wind down 2014, I thought it might be fun to take a look at a few of the most significant news stories we reported on this year.
Detroit Bankruptcy Mediated in “Grand Bargain”
The most-watched court ADR news story of 2014 may have been the mediated settlement that resolved the City of Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy. Without doubt, this riveting drama of competing interests coming together to form a “Grand Bargain” will be studied and discussed for years to come. We reported on facets of this story a few times, both here in our blog and in our newsletter:
Union Groups Join Detroit’s Mediated Grand Bargain, June 2014
Two unions have agreed to participate in the “grand bargain” being negotiated in Detroit’s bankruptcy mediation, led by US District Judge Gerald Rosen. The Michigan Building and Construction Council will make “material contributions” to health care costs for Detroit’s retirees. Though not contributing money directly, the United Auto Workers agreed to help raise contributions toward the health care costs. Before these pledges, the Bankruptcy Court had secured 660 million dollars in contributions toward bankruptcy relief, much of it from donations by nonprofit organizations gathered through the mediation process. Governor Rick Snyder has called for the state to contribute a 200 million dollar lump sum towards the grand bargain, which is designed to aid Detroit pensions and the Detroit Institute of Arts. However, some legislators had expressed reluctance unless the city’s unions also participated. The Michigan Building and Construction Council and the UAW are the only two unions to participate so far. The mediators ‘ statement about their agreement expresses hope that other labor organizations will participate, but notes that the trade unions’ participation is “contingent upon full funding of the grand bargain by the foundations, the state and the Detroit Institute of Arts.”
Bellwether Mediation Tests the Waters in Medical Class-Action
Our readers showed a lot of interest in our report on the billion-dollar settlement between a medical manufacturer and patients who received a faulty hip implant. The story was intriguing because of the size of the settlement and for the first use that I have seen of the novel process “bellwether mediation.”
Billion-Dollar Settlement Following “Bellwether” Mediation over Hip Implants, December 2014
The manufacturers of the Stryker Hip implant have settled for up to $1.7 billion with thousands of patients who received metal-on-metal hip implants with fundamental design flaws. The implants, whose debris could cause metal poisoning or extreme pain, required many elderly patients to receive corrective surgery at high medical risk. In the New Jersey Superior Court of Bergen County, at Judge Brian Martinotti’s recommendation, 21 of the first 25 parties who filed suit participated in a “bellwether mediation process.” [Search for this phrase to read the linked article without paywall.] The bellwether mediation was held early in the litigation process with the goal of demonstrating whether mediation would succeed at ending lawsuits or whether it would be better to continue the litigation. The judge appointed three retired state and federal judges as well as a mediation group to mediate the first cases. This allowed company representatives to hear stories directly from patients. The mediation lasted four months, moving quickly in recognition that time was of the essence for the injured parties. Patients whose failed implants required surgery before the settlement were awarded at least $300,000 per hip, with those with the worst complications receiving up to $1.7 million. Patients whose implants fail after this agreement are likely to file additional lawsuits.
New ADR Programs in Ohio
Early in the year, the Ohio Supreme Court amended its rules to allow courts to order parenting coordination. Our readers were interested to see the new rules for this process. The state also created an ADR program specifically for public officials.
New Parenting Coordination Rules from Ohio Supreme Court, March 2014
Ohio courts that use parenting coordination will follow amended rules effective April 1. [See Rules 90-90.12] The rules will allow courts to order parenting coordination, a child-focused ADR process, in which parenting coordinators help families implement parental rights and responsibilities. The amended rules describe the role and responsibilities of the parenting coordinators, and of the local courts that use them. While local Ohio courts are already using parenting coordination, the Ohio Supreme Court’s goal in establishing statewide use was to ensure that coordinators are qualified and to promote quality and consistency in court programs across Ohio.
Ohio Supreme Court Creating ADR Program for Public Officials, January 2014
The Ohio Supreme Court’s Dispute Resolution Section is surveying statewide government officials in order to create a new dispute resolution program. The program will offer a formal process to mediate disputes between public officials. The Ohio Supreme Court assumed these duties in 2011, after the Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management was abolished by the general assembly.
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