Case Study – Mediation of a construction dispute

The following is based on an actual mediated dispute, involving a home owner and a renovations contractor, and is fairly typical of what can be expected when working with me, as a mediator.

Background to the Mediation:

The dispute was about a home renovation.   It involved two parties, a home owner and renovation contractor.  The contractor was experienced, and had done work for the homeowner before, without issue.

There was no written contract prior to the commencement of the renovation work.   The scope of work had been verbally agreed to.   The work was completed, with mutual consent, while the home owner was out-of-town.

The home owner disputed the contractor’s invoice, and refused to pay.   Communications had broken down, and their differences seemed irreconcilable.   The parties opted for mediation.   The parties provided the mediator with relevant documents, to the dispute.

The Mediation, itself:

The parties were welcomed into the mediation room.   The mediator outlined the mediation process, and confirmed expectations for the mediation (previously established in an Agreement-to-Mediate), including: the parties address each other respectfully, actively listen to each other, keep the details of the mediation confidential, and make a serious effort to resolve the issues.

Each party contributed their story, with minimal interruption. A half dozen issues were identified; work quality, labour effort, material costs, communications, emotional impact, community status.   Each issue was explored in detail.

At one point, one of the parties became exasperated with the other, initiated some name calling, and threatened to get up and leave. The mediator reminded both parties of the need for safety and respectful language,  we don’t listen well after someone calls us an idiot, and that it is natural to hold both positive (e.g., let’s resolve this together, now), and negative (I’m right, you’re wrong) emotions towards the other party.

The mediator then held a private caucus with each party to assess possible resolution options.

Returning to a joint session, preferred resolution options were put on the table.   The mediator facilitated negotiations between the parties.

A settlement agreement was reached.  The agreement contained both terms of what each party committed to do, going forward, as well as enforcement terms, what would happen if a party reneged on their commitment.

The wording and terms of the agreement were formalized, typed up by the mediator, using a laptop, and printed off.  The parties signed two copies of the agreement, with each party retaining a copy.

The parties, on their own initiative, shook hands.

The mediation session ended.