Here at Construction Law Musings, I have often discussed mediation as a good alternative to the expense and headaches of litigation. What I have discussed less often are the circumstances in which it is most appropriate to consider or even push for mediation.
The obvious and clearest time that mediation must be used is where the contract requires it. Many construction contracts, including those from the AIA (when the parties check the appropriate box) require mediation as a prerequisite to arbitration or litigation. As is almost always the case in Virginia, this clause will be enforced. In short, if your construction contract has such a clause, and despite my reservations about “mandatory mediation,” you need to at least go through the process before moving forward with your construction claim.
The more interesting case is where no such clause exists and the parties reach an impasse, sometimes prior to litigation and often after the filing of a construction complaint or demand for arbitration. What questions should you as a construction attorney be asking both to and about your construction clients before attempting mediation?