Friday, April 24, 2015

Court Approves NFL Concussion Settlement

After the first deal was rejected by the trial court just over a year ago, a second deal doing away with a $675 million cap on the fund from which injured former players would draw was reached. Reportedly, the National Football League (NFL) projects 6,000 of some 20,000 retired football players will suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. The approved settlement could payout more than $1 billion. Plaintiffs lawyers not involved in negotiations on the second deal may still appeal over previously expressed concerns about the settlement terms. One attempt to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit failed last fall, with that court declining to exercise jurisdiction on review of an order granting or denying class certification. The issue on appeal involved preliminary approval of the settlement and granting conditional certification of the class for settlement purposes. Even now that approval of the settlement is final, it could be appealed which would delay benefits to eligible players. Failure to compensate players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the primary objection to the deal which only compensates for CTE if the player has died. The case faced significant legal hurdles at the start that could have landed the case in arbitration instead of federal court. At the outset, the district judge signaled a preference for settlement of the case, believing that the interests of all parties would be best served by a negotiated resolution. The settlement has been characterized as avoiding litigating thousands of complex individual claims over many years and providing immediate relief and support. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners claim they wanted to "do the right thing" for former players with neurological conditions who believe their problems stem from on-field concussions. The lawsuit accused the league of hiding known risks of concussions for decades to return players to games and protect its image. See more here-- and settlement info here-- and and

Friday, April 17, 2015

Media Prompts Sunshine Law Mediation

Florida's Governor and cabinet members will mediate their differences next week in Tallahassee with more than a dozen news outlets in a lawsuit accusing officials of violating Florida's Sunshine Law. The mediation postpones a scheduled videotaped deposition of the recently ousted commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The sudden dismissal triggered the lawsuit, leading to a series of reforms designed to improve cabinet oversight of state agencies. Former FDLE Commissioner, Gerald Bailey, will likely repeat allegations of political interference by gubernatorial campaign staff and state officials who secretly arranged his ouster. Reportedly, news outlets will seek that high-level state officials post all text messages and emails on the state-run "Project Sunburst" website and to permanently prohibit state officials from using private email accounts to conduct public business. Media editors plan to attend the ironically confidential mediation session in the case on April 22, 2015. A former Florida Supreme Court justice has been brought in to mediate the lawsuit. Additional items up for negotiation are the adoption of policies to keep cabinet proceedings covered by the Sunshine Law, including a return to the recording and broadcasting aides' meetings. The parties will also discuss a prohibition on using liaisons or conduits to communicate about any official business. Finally, the suit seeks to void the appointment of Rick Swearingen, current head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and to conduct a full and open process to appoint a permanent leader. Discussions are to include the formation of an Open Government Commission, similar to the Ethics Commission, with the power to investigate alleged Sunshine Law violations. As Justice Brandeis once quipped, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." Read more here-- and and see

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mediating Professor: Mediation Theory & Practice

Last week, I had the privilege of teaching the Mediation Theory & Practice class of my UWWM colleague Brandon Peters at FAMU College of Law. I was glad to find students bright and eager to learn the practical side of our profession. Our topic was representing clients at mediation. This required putting back on the advocacy hat and thinking about the process of mediation in a different way than in my daily job as mediator. As a neutral, we are motivated to facilitate the parties in making a decision for themselves. In examining how attorneys should represent clients at mediation, we reviewed the traditional role of a zealous advocate and what issues might arise during negotiations, such as lawyer-client conflicts of interest, non-economic concerns, and other potential inhibitors to a deal. Selecting attendees was also a big topic. In discussing this, we went over scenarios of a multi-party case and explored the attributes and potential influences of both large and small contingents at mediation, while keeping in mind confidentiality as paramount. Finally, we looked at preparation for mediation, including preparing the client and managing expectations for settlement. These components cannot be underestimated in achieving a successful result at mediation. It was truly refreshing to talk with law students about what we do as full-time neutrals on a regular basis and to be reminded of the important service that alternative dispute resolution neutrals provide to our court system.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mork Mediation: Robin Williams Estate

The widow of Robin Williams and his adult children will try and settle their dispute over the late actor’s estate this month in a court-ordered mediation. Susan Schneider Williams petitioned the court, saying his three children are claiming memorabilia that was left to her. She also claimed some of her husband’s belongings were taken from their marital home without permission. Reportedly, a bitter fight over property of the late comedian may ultimately be decided by his trustees. It has been asserted in court documents that his trust is clear and unambiguous about authority to determine the disposition of the tangible personal property. Attorneys said the entire battle for the legendary comedian’s estate should have been kept private because Robin Williams was an intensely private person who had carefully constructed his estate plan to keep it out of public view. One of the issues is establishing a date to transfer possession of items to the late actor’s wife and children after trustees received input regarding the dispersal of his property. An inventory of the personal property identified almost a thousand items. Williams’s will entitles his children to clothing, jewelry, personal photos taken prior to his latest marriage to Schneider, as well as awards, memorabilia and tangible personal property from his home. In the months after their father’s death, the children claim their stepmother spent her time appraising his memorabilia, jewelry and other personal effects for her benefit. One of the items referenced are the iconic suspenders worn on the “Mork & Mindy” show. Perhaps mediation will solve the ugly dispute between kin without a "Nanu Nanu" to the judge. See stories here-- and