Civil Cases: Mandatory Mediation Required in Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny
Feb. 6, 2024
The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and the surrounding area, now requires mandatory mediation for most civil cases. This additional level of legal procedure is an attempt to settle civil cases; that are particularly complex and expensive to litigate. This mandatory requirement is a leading move toward alternative dispute resolution, which had been adopted and successful in federal courts that include the area of Allegheny County. With this new rule, parties must now factor mediation into litigation strategy. This mandatory procedure may be adopted by other counties over the next few years once they weigh in the success level in Allegheny County. It is always available by agreement of the plaintiffs and defendants in other counties, right now.
Under Local Rule 212.7, parties must participate in a formal mediation process at least 45 days prior to the commencement of the assigned trial term. Parties may be excused from mediation only upon motion for “good cause” presented to the Judge in charge of calendar control or by agreement of all parties. Within 7 days of completing or waiving mediation, the plaintiff must file a certification with the Court that the claims were or are expected to be settled, or that the parties waived mediation. Further, upon motion, the same Judge may impose sanctions on parties or counsel for “failure to comply with this rule in good faith.” Areas that are exempt from this mandatory mediation requirement are arbitration appeals, asbestos cases, or landlord-tenant cases.
Naturally, timing is a key factor in making mediation more productive. It may be an incredibly useful tool since the economics of litigation and matters of judicial economy are factors to be considered. One should consider placing the mediation deadline after the close of discovery and filing of pre-trial statements, the new rule is designed to give litigants flexibility to choose the best time to mediate. However, some cases may benefit further by having earlier mediation to avoid significant discovery costs. On the other hand, cases that are more complex, such as those needing the exchange of expert reports, may require time and procedural adjustments before the parties would be ready to mediate.