Both the mediation and legal communities in California are abuzz about the Court of Appeals decision in Cassel v. Superior Court (Cal. App. 2 Dist. November 12, 2009)which held that attorney client communications are not protected from becoming evidence when they take place at mediation if the mediator isn't in the room at the time of the communication. Apparently, a well respected lawfirm, Wasserman, Camden and Comden, strongly urged it's client, Mr. Cassel, to accept a $1 million settlement during a private meeting at the mediation. Mr. Cassel agreed and the settlement was drawn up. Now Mr. Cassel is claiming his lawyers coerced him into the settlment and in doing so, breached their fiduciary duty to him. Not only does he seek to unravel the settlement, but seeks additional damages from his attorneys. The Court created a judicial exception to the confidentiality statue where the communication was solely between lawyer and client. Lesson? Lawyer beware. Never let the mediator out of your sight lest your advice, if accepted, maybe subject to later challenges. And your settlement may be unenforceable. Sounds like a good deal for mediators, and a raw deal for mediation confidentiality. Lots to think about on this one.
Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the needs of their representatives with the risk and expenses of trial. Those who have used Ms. Schau’s services recognize excellence in her persistence, optimism, creativity and integrity.
Ms. Schau was the President of the Southern California Mediation Association in 2007 and is recognized as among the most outstanding mediators in Southern California in the mediation of civil disputes by her peers and clients. She also serves as a Trustee of the Board of Directors of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and has presided as Chair of it’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and Litigation Section. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Skills in Negotiation from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution of Pepperdine University as well as from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights at Loyola Law School.