I did a mediation recently that was different in a couple of ways and that actually improved my view of us flawed human beings. It doesn’t happen often so I thought I would share it here.
It was about an assault that began in a licensed premises. One young man (I’ll refer to as B) was suing another (A), and also a drinking establishment, for injuries sustained in an altercation that took place about four years ago.
While A was invited to attend the mediation, he had no assets, no insurance and no lawyer. Quite frankly there was no expectation on anyone’s part that he would show up. But he did, full sleeve tattoos and all.
The rough outline of the fact pattern is that after a few drinks there were words exchanged between the two and then A threw a beer bottle across the room that hit B in the head. Some time later, A further assaulted B in the parking lot with some sort of weapon, maybe a pistol, maybe a piece of pipe. The police that attended never did find a weapon. The injuries weren’t catastrophic but they were significant.
Enough time had passed between the event and the mediation that A and B were not impossibly uncomfortable sitting in the same room together, although I was careful to provide for some physical space to reduce awkwardness.
There were legal liability issues debated, A’s obvious blame was discussed, sometimes provocatively, as well as the additional potential responsibility of the bar, and how B had been a part-author of his own misfortune.
Once the lawyers had finished their opening discussion, and B had answered some questions about his claim from his personal perspective, I asked A if he wanted to say anything.
He launched no personal defense. Without prompting or coaching, he looked directly at B and expressed a genuine regret in having caused the injuries, and accepted responsibility for his actions.
A was accompanied by his grandfather, a retired fireman, and with that person by his side in their separate caucus room, he was more than just a passive listener in the negotiations that followed the discussion. He had earned the right, not only by showing up and taking responsibility, but also by making a cash contribution. It wasn’t much in terms of the eventual settlement amount but it was meaningful in terms of his own resources.
During the discussion B also allowed that he would conduct himself differently if that sort of situation ever came up again. At the end of the process, both of them shook hands. We all went home with a conflict resolved, from both the legal and the human perspective.
Each one of us ‘professionals,’ who see human trauma parsed and pecuniarized on a daily basis were moved. Here was a moment of courage, as well as confirmation, that out such a negative event, better humans can be made.