Most civil cases require parties to attempt mediation unless waived by the court. Mediation provides an opportunity for parties to meet with a neutral person to try to reach an agreement without court involvement.
Mediation is a process in which parties attempt to settle a legal dispute with the help of a third party (the mediator). It is a way to try to resolve the case by agreement, instead of having a trial in which a judge or jury makes the decision. The parties choose a mediator who has had no involvement in the case. The mediator does not make a decision, but helps the parties reach an agreement. If the parties agree on a settlement, the mediator may help write down the agreement to file with the court.
Get all the documents you think are important to explain your side of the case. The mediator may ask you for copies of these and may ask you to send them to the other parties.
Think about what points you want the mediator and the other side to understand.
Think about weak points in your case. Think about the strong points of the other side.
Think about reasonable ways to resolve the dispute that would satisfy you.
Realize there may be ways to resolve the dispute you haven’t considered. Be flexible.
Foreclosure mediation is very different from regular mediation. In foreclosure mediation, the mediator's role is to ensure that the lender has considered all the options for modifying the loan so that the borrower can stay in the home.
The process of foreclosure mediation is also different from regular mediation. The defendant must submit a written form to the court requesting foreclosure mediation. The Vermont Bar Association then contacts both the plaintiff and the defendant with a selection of three mediators to choose from. If the parties do not agree upon a mediator, the court selects one.
Rule 16.3. Mediation
(a) Applicability; When Mediation Required.
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the parties must participate in mediation pursuant to this rule unless excused by the judge.
(2) Unless the judge orders otherwise, mediation shall not be required under this rule in the following cases:
(A) Small claims actions under the Vermont Rules of Small Claims Procedure;
(B) Actions in which at or before the filing of the last required pleading, the parties jointly certify that they have in good faith engaged in mediation regarding the dispute that is the subject of the action and file with the court a report of the mediator, describing the process employed and the results;
(C) Actions to foreclose a mortgage or evict a tenant;
(D) Actions to renew a judgment;
(E) Appeals under Rules 74-75; and
(F) Proceedings for a writ of habeas corpus or for post-conviction relief.
(b) Stipulation for Mediation.
(1) When Filed. -- In every action in which mediation is required under this rule, the parties must file a stipulation for mediation within thirty days of the filing of the last answer. If the parties fail to do so, the court may appoint a mediator and set a deadline for mediation.
(2) Contents. -- The stipulation for mediation must contain:
(A) The designation of a specific individual, who need not be an attorney, to serve as the mediator;
(B) Any agreement concerning the payment of the mediator's fees and expenses; and
(C) A deadline for the completion of mediation.
(3) Participation. -- All parties and their counsel must attend a scheduled mediation unless the parties stipulate otherwise or the court, for good cause, excuses a person from participation or authorizes a person to participate by telephone. A corporation, partnership, or other entity that is a party, and a liability insurer that is defending the action or that sues in the name of its insured, must each be represented by a person (other than outside counsel) who has settlement authority and authority to enter stipulations. With the agreement of all parties and the mediator, any nonparty having an interest that may be materially affected by the outcome of the proceeding, or whose presence is essential to its resolution, may be invited to attend the session in person or by counsel.
(c) Mediators. -- The following provisions apply to mediations held pursuant to this rule:
(1) Fees and Expenses; Payment for Services; Taxation as Costs.
(A) The fees and expenses of a mediator selected by the parties will be agreed upon by the parties and the mediator.
(B) Each party must pay an equal share of the fees and expenses of any selected or designated mediator unless otherwise agreed or ordered. Any party that believes it is financially unable to pay the fee may file a motion with the court requesting that mediation not be required in the case.
(C) If mediation under this rule does not result in settlement or other final disposition of the action, payments made to a mediator may be taxed as costs to the prevailing party in the discretion of the court.
(2) Impartiality; Disclosure; Conflict of Interest. -- A mediator selected by the parties or designated by the clerk must not accept the assignment, or must withdraw, if the neutral mediator does not reasonably believe that the assignment can be undertaken impartially. If the mediator accepts the assignment, the mediator must disclose at any time to the parties any interest or relationship likely to affect his or her impartiality or to create an appearance of bias. If a mediator selected by the parties does not accept the assignment or withdraws, or if any party objects to a mediator on grounds of conflict of interest, unless otherwise provided by the agreement or by law, the parties must agree on another mediator within fourteen days or the clerk will select another mediator.
(d) Excuse of Modification for Cause. -- The court at any time, by its own order or on the motion of a party, may for good cause excuse any party or parties from the application of any or all provisions of this rule or may modify provisions of the rule to fit particular circumstances.
(e) Confidentiality. -- All written or oral communications made in connection with or during a mediation proceeding conducted under this rule are governed by chapter 194 of Title 12 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated.
(f) Sanctions. -- If a party, lawyer, or other person who is required to participate in a mediation under this rule does not appear at the mediation, or does not comply with any other requirement of this rule or any order made under it, unless that person shows good cause for not appearing or not complying, the court will impose one or more of the following sanctions:
(1) The court will require the party or lawyer, or both, to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees and costs, of the opposing party, and any fees and expenses of the mediator, incurred by reason of the nonappearance, unless the court finds that such an award would be unjust in the circumstances.
(2) In addition, the court may order the parties to submit to mediation, dismiss the action or any part of the action, render a decision or judgment by default, or impose any other sanction that is just and appropriate in the circumstances.
HISTORY: Added Oct. 5, 1999, eff. Dec. 31, 1999; amended Mar. 6, 2002, eff. July 1, 2002; June 16, 2003, eff. November 1, 2003; Dec. 21, 2004, eff. Feb. 21, 2005; Jan. 25, 2005, eff. Jan. 31, 2005; Nov. 22, 2011, eff. Jan. 23, 2012; July 11, 2016, eff. Sept. 12, 2016.