1. General Business Disputes
Partnership Dispute Over Custom House Sale Proceeds:
Two partners purchased a high end residential property for the purpose of improvement and resale. One partner provided the funding while the other provided the construction expertise. Although numerous written agreements were prepared, none of them contemplated the ultimate outcome: the property was sold for significantly less than expected. The vague and incomplete terms of the various written documents were insufficient to resolve the issues which arose between the parties.
In a one day mediation, I was able to work with the parties and their counsel reach an agreement to distribute the sales proceeds between the parties to their mutual satisfaction.
A large manufacturer of landscape equipment found itself in a dispute with one of its former distributors who claimed exclusive distribution rights over a territory. When I was brought in to mediate, the former distributor had already sued the manufacturer for breach of contract and the new distributor for interference with his contract.
During the course a one day mediation, I was able to bring the parties to an agreement that provided for a cash payout to the former distributor, the ability of the manufacturer to continue to proceed with the new distributor and dismissal of the lawsuit.
A developer of commercial properties in Southern California had partnered with investors to develop four separate properties. During the course of construction, and while the properties were in various stages of development, disputes arose between the investors and the developer. These disputes involved whether the investors were sufficiently funding the project versus whether the developer was sufficiently managing the project.
During the course of a mediation which began at 9:30 a.m., I worked with the parties to reach agreement, whereby the investors would purchase the developer’s interest in the properties at the purchase price, all of which was set forth in a term sheet signed at 2:45 a.m. the following day. Over the next month, I provided further review of documents and telephonic assistance to bring the parties together in reaching comprehensive purchase and sale agreements for each project in order to complete the settlement.
2. Real Property Disputes
Longstanding Boundary Dispute Between Two Residential Properties:
Two neighbors were embroiled in a longstanding boundary dispute. One of the neighbors ultimately ordered a survey which showed that both properties were encroaching on the other at certain locations. Under threat of potential, the neighbors and their lawyers came to my office for mediation.
I resolved the case by working with the parties to grant permanent easements to one another to allow for the encroaching uses that were important to each, essentially redrawing boundary lines. As a result, both parties were able to enjoy the use of their properties without further legal action and left the mediation once again as good neighbors.
Homeowner Versus Title Company Over Sewer Easement:
A home owner in the Hollywood Hills discovered, when a new home was built behind his, that the sanitary sewer easement extended across his property, although that had not been noted on the title report when he purchased the property. To accomplish the construction of the new home, the existing homeowner’s driveway had to be torn out for the placement of a larger sewer line, and the driveway could not be repaired to its original state.
A lawsuit was pending when the parties and their attorneys met with me at my office.
The homeowner claimed both damage to his property and a potential devaluation of his property based upon the failure of the title company to note the existence of the sewer easement when the home was first purchased. The homeowner claimed damage in excess of $600,000.
Over the course of two mediation sessions, I was able to resolve the case by negotiating a payment from the title insurance company that was satisfactory to the property owner.
Sellers/Buyers of a Multimillion Dollar Home:
The buyers of a multimillion dollar home in West Los Angeles discovered, after the close of escrow, that when it rained there were leaks in the property’s basement. Repairs to the property were estimated in excess of $100,000.
The buyers claimed that the potential for these leaks should have been listed by the sellers on the transfer disclosure statement. The buyers threatened to sue to rescind the purchase of the home, although the sellers, by that time, had already used the proceeds to purchase a new home.
Over the course of a one day mediation and follow up phone calls and emails over the next two weeks, I was able to resolve this case with a cash payment from the sellers that was satisfactory to the buyers.
Condominium Homeowners Association Dispute:
A developer had granted himself ownership of the penthouse unit and the adjoining rooftop at a condominium project he constructed in Beverly Hills. After he died various disputes arose between his heirs and the other condominium owners as members of the homeowners association. The disputes included the construction of an unauthorized rooftop sun deck by the developers’ children and, due to a lack of maintenance, water intrusion from the rooftop area to the lower units. The HOA filed litigation against the heirs, at which time I was hired by all parties to mediate the matter.
Mediation included a full day of discussions at my office, a visit to the site, numerous phone calls and e-mails, and a concluding full day session near the Santa Monica Courthouse the day before the action was set to commence trial. I was ultimately able to coordinate a settlement between the parties which provided for removal of the unauthorized structure, repair to the rooftop and lower units, a contribution for the cost of this work from the HOA’s insurer, and dismissal of the lawsuit.
3. Construction Disputes
Fabricator Claim for Extra Work Charges:
A sheet metal fabricator sued the owner of a three industrial size stainless steel tanks for the costs of extra work performed in grinding and polishing the tanks’ inside portions. The extra costs were more than 150% of the agreed contract amount for the project. The fabricator claimed the extra costs resulted from changed scope and limited access to the tanks. The tank owner contended that the extra costs were unreasonable and not sufficiently documented.
During the course of full day mediation, I worked with the parties to help them better understand the contentions of the other side, and the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. This led a settlement which provided for an additional payment to the fabricator, satisfactory to both parties, and a dismissal of the litigation.
Subcontractor Claim for Final Payment:
A concrete subcontractor sought final payment for work it had performed in the construction of a public works residential project. The owner and general contractor contended that there were defects in the subcontractor’s workmanship resulting in potential long-term impacts to the structural elements of the building.
Over the course of a full day mediation, I was able to resolve the dispute by assisting the parties in reaching a settlement which provided for resolution of the known disputes, including a final payment to the subcontractor, and a reservation of rights with regard to any future indemnity claims for unknown defects.
Dispute Over Multi-Million Dollar Beachfront Home:
A dispute arose between the homeowner, engineer and architect over the construction of a multi-million dollar beachfront home in Ventura. The homeowner contended that the structural elements of the home, as designed, were insufficient to support the upper stories of the home. The design professionals disputed this and asserted claims for non-payment by the homeowner.
During the course of a full day mediation, I was able to effectuate a communication process that allowed for a discounted final payment to the design professionals and an understanding by the homeowner that there were no current issues with the home. However, if any such issues arose in the future, the settlement provided that those claims could still be asserted against the design professionals.
4. Employment Disputes
Termination of HIV Positive Employee:
An employee, who had been diagnosed as HIV positive, requested a leave of absence from his employer and explained the medical reason for that request. A year later, upon his return to work, he was first transferred to another department and, thereafter laid off. The employer contended that the layoff was merely a reduction in the work force and that a number of other employees had also been laid off at the same time.
The employee claimed the termination was based upon his AIDS diagnosis and his opening demand was $5,000,000 at the beginning of the mediation. After an eighteen hour continuous mediation, I assisted the parties in reaching a settlement, at 3:00 a.m. the following day, which provided for a six figure settlement payment to the employee.
Whistle Blower Claim of Termination in Violation of Public Policy:
An employee working for a temporary staffing service was assigned to work as a parts inspector at an aircraft parts manufacturer. During the course of that assignment, the employee contended that he discovered that the manufacturer was altering the date of manufacture codes in order to conform to the specifications of the ultimate purchasers, which included the U.S. Government. The employee stated that he first complained of this practice to the manufacturer and then to the temporary staffing service. The employee contended that this resulted in the termination of his temporary assignment and, thereafter, he received no further assignments from the tem agency. The employee asserted that this was a retaliatory termination in violation of public policy and filed suit against both the temp agency and the manufacturer. In response, the manufacturer contended that the employee was mistaken as to the manufacture codes, while the staffing service indicated that the employee remained eligible for assignment.
At the start of the afternoon mediation, all three parties stated that they were only willing to allocate three hours to possible resolution. However, the mediation ultimately progressed past that timeline until 9 p.m. During lengthy negotiation between the parties, I managed over thirty demands and offers resulting in a payment to the employee sufficient for him to dismiss his law suit and drop any further claims.
Claim Against Employee for Embezzlement:
An employer filed litigation against a former employee and his wife for embezzlement of more than $1.2 million. The former employee was incarcerated during the entire mediation process based upon conviction for prior embezzlement charges and the current pending charges, which required negotiation through his wife via phone calls to the county jail. The employer had also sued a national bank, which was accused of failing to have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent the embezzlement.
Over four, separate full day mediation sessions which lasted over six months, I was able to resolve the claims against the bank in return for a payment for a portion of what had been embezzled. In addition, an agreement was reached as the amount of payment the employee and his wife would pay to the employer. Additionally, I negotiated the process for the staged disposition of employee’s assets to provide for this payment without resulting in the unnecessary sale of all of the employee’s assets.
Racial Discrimination Claim of Termination in Violation of Public Policy:
A former communications director for a large public utility claimed that she was denied promotions and targeted for mistreatment based upon her previous reports to senior management of perceived mistreatment of African American executives. The utility claimed that the plaintiff’s employment had ended because she had failed to apply for a sufficient number of available positions, following a reorganization of management. This resulted in her position being unnecessary surplus. The employee refused the severance package offered and, instead, filed a lawsuit.
During the course of the mediation, I was convinced the utility that they had some exposure to the employee’s claims. I was also able to convince the employee that her claims were not strong enough to continue with the lawsuit if I could get the utility company to provide additional payment along with the prior severance package offer. Ultimately, the parties agreed to settle by providing the employee with the previously rejected severance package plus an additional cash payment, resulting in dismissal of the lawsuit.
5. Probate/Trust Disputes
Trust Dispute Among Five Children:
Five adult children had various disputes between themselves and an institutional trustee regarding the disposition of their mother’s estate with a value in excess of $2 million. The disputes to be resolved included agreeing upon who would be successor trustee, various claims against the former trustee (one of the brothers) and his wife for mismanagement resulting in debts against the estate and tax liabilities, disputes with the existing institutional trustee, and various accounting issues.
Over the course of four separate mediation sessions I was able to work with the parties to reach a settlement which provided for appointment of a successor trustee, resolution of disputes with the existing institutional trustee, payment of outstanding liability of the estate, and a division of the trust assets among the five children.
Partnership Dissolution Between Widow and Surviving Brother-in-Law:
A dispute existed between a widow and her deceased husband’s brother regarding the division of the partnership businesses, which included a gas station and an apartment building, following the husband’s death. The surviving brother wanted to retain ownership of the businesses as an ongoing source of income but was unwilling to pay the widow the true value of her one-half share in each business.
This mediation required three separate sessions, included two sessions late into the evening between Christmas and New Years’. During that time, I was able to fashion a settlement which recognized the true value of the partnership assets, provided for a large down payment to the widow for the gas station with further payments over time, and joint participation in the ongoing operation of the apartment building with a sharing of the income.
6. Condemnation & Eminent Domain Matters
Over a period of four months, I successfully mediated eight different matters involving a redevelopment agency’s condemnation of numerous parcels of real property in order to complete the development of a “Big Box store” retail complex. Based upon different zoning and mixed uses in the area (residential, light industrial and service businesses), each property involved different valuation methodologies as no property was the same. The property owners ranged from a property with a pet grooming service in the front and an industrial storage area in the back to a property owned by a national sign company which it used storage of unused billboard panels.
In another mediation, I successfully resolved a matter involving a redevelopment agency’s condemnation of a parcel of property containing both a family business and an apartment building. Issues to be resolved included: the value of the property, the value of the goodwill in the business, and relocation costs. This matter was successfully mediated over the course of a single day, during which I was able to resolve all issues, notwithstanding a difference of valuation between the experts in excess of $850,000.
In a third example, I successfully mediated a matter involving condemnation by a redevelopment agency of three adjoining parcels which had been separately acquired by a family over many years for the purpose of private development. The case involved significant differences of opinion as to the appropriate method for valuing the parcels. This resulted in a differential in valuation of $1,100,000 at the commencement of the mediation. At the first mediation session, I was able to convince the redevelopment agency that it needed to consider a valuation method that was consistent with the approach of the property owners. Following this reevaluation, the difference between the values was significantly reduced and, during the second session, I was able to resolve the matter in its entirety.