Mediation and Confidentiality

Confidentiality in mediation can be a tricky subject. If, in the mediation, liability is admitted or a particularly bad fact is disclosed – can it be used at trial? Or, can an incriminating statement made in mediation be used to impeach a witness/party during a late deposition?

Arguably, such “free speech” at a mediation can be prevented from being admitted into evidence through a variety of objections, motions in limine, etc. The admissibility of such statements also may be subject to varying State laws. However, it may be better (and cheaper) for attorneys to prepare clients to avoid this legal scenario altogether. But, avoiding major admissions at mediation may also be important for a psychological reason.

If major admissions are made in mediation, then the admission should be made with tactical precision. To do otherwise may result in the opposing party becoming more entrenched in the battle, not the negotiation. The motivation of the opposition can be altered with major disclosures in its favor – shifting from a spirit of resolution back to a continued pursuit of the jugular.

But, some might question whether parties should enter the mediation process with the intent to withhold information that would assist in all parties’ assessment of their positions. If parties participate in mediation with the premediated intent not to disclose information, have those parties undermined the process of mediation itself?

Weigh in…

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