The vast majority of insurance cases are Ordered by a Court to participate in a mediation. There is good reason for this. Most cases, if they do not settle before mediation, will settle at mediation. The settlement brings an end to the litigation between the parties and saves court time and resources. For mediation to be successful, the parties with full settlement authority and the attorneys need to be present. So what if a particular person does not show up at the mediation? What is that person is the person most knowledgeable about the case?
The El Paso Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a mandamus case styled, In Re: Mary Anne Vinson. This case arises out of a car wreck between Jaime Soto and Stephanie Dutchover wherein Soto sued Dutchover for negligence in causing a car wreck and the resulting damages. Dutchover was insured by Allstate and Vinson was the adjuster assigned to handle the claim and the adjuster most familiar with the case.
The trial court signed an order appointing a mediator and further stated: “All Parties and their representatives with full settlement authority shall attend the mediation process, with their counsel of record.” Vinson did not attend the mediation but another adjuster did attend.
Soto filed a motion and order, which the Court signed, compelling Vinson to attend mediation. This mandamus action arose from that Order.
In reviewing this case this Court cited the law from Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code, Section 154.002, stating it is the policy of this state to encourage the peaceable resolution of disputes and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures. Section 154.021(a) authorizes the court to refer a dispute to an alternative dispute procedure. Section 154.022(b) gives the parties ten days to file a written objection.
It is generally understood that the trial court may order than an insurance company’s representative having full settlement authority must attend mediation.
Soto contends that Vinson personally interfered with a core function of the trial court by refusing to attend mediation. However, the mediation order did not order Allstate or Vinson to attend mediation. As a result, Vinson did not refuse to attend mediation as claimed by Soto. A court can order an Allstate representative having full settlement authority to attend the mediation but the trial court cannot choose the representative or mandate that one representative rather than another must attend. Soto did not allege in this action that the Allstate representative who attended the mediation did not have full settlement authority. Instead Soto argues that Vinson should have attended because Vinson was the adjuster most familiar with the case.
Soto was unable to show to this Court any authority for his position that a court is authorized to compel a particular representative to attend mediation simply because that representative is more familiar with the case.