A Party’s Obligation to Pay a Mediator’s Fee is Enforced

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Insisting

By Donald L. Swanson

On May 28, 2019, a U.S. District Judge issued an Order insisting that the Defendant pay mediator fees of $1,850.00 for a cancelled mediation. The case is Linares v. Suarez, in the U.S. District Court for Florida’s Middle District (Case No. 8:18-cv-985).

Facts

Here’s what happened.

–Mediation Scheduled.

Linares sued Suarez for fraud, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. Several months later, the parties scheduled a mediation, and the U.S. District Court appointed a mediator. Then, the mediator sent an engagement letter to the parties’ attorneys, which identified the mediator’s $400 per hour rate and specified that failure to provide fourteen-days notice of mediation cancellation could result in a minimum charge of five hours.

–Mediation Cancelled

Then, Suarez’s attorney withdrew because of Suarez’s unresponsiveness and for nonpayment of legal fees, after which Suarez moved to reschedule the mediation—twice. The mediation sessions were cancelled and then rescheduled, both times.

–Mediator’s Fee

The mediator sent an $1,850 bill to both parties for cancellation of the initial mediation session. Suarez agreed to pay the bill in four installments of $462.50 each. But Suarez failed to make any payment whatsoever and failed to respond to the mediator’s emails.

–Order to Pay

At the mediator’s request, the Court directed Suarez to respond and to show cause why he should not be ordered to pay the mediation bill. Suarez failed to respond. So, the Court ordered Suarez to pay the $1,850 fee by June 25, 2019.

Rationale

Here is the Court’s rationale for its decision:

  • “It is axiomatic” that a Court can enforce its orders and require parties to pay a mediation bill;
  • In this case, the Court ordered Suarez to pay the bill for the cancelled mediation, and Suarez agreed to do so; and
  • Suarez then failed to comply and became unresponsive in a variety of contexts within the lawsuit.

Such reasons are sufficient grounds for granting the mediator’s request to compel payment of the mediation bill, the Court concludes.

Further Incentive

The court’s Order adds that a continued failure by Suarez to comply may result in additional sanctions, such as “the striking of his answer and entry of default.”

In support of such a remedy, the court cites a 2009 decision out of the Western District of Tennessee for this proposition: a default judgment may be entered against a defendant who refused to mediate as a matter of “civil disobedience.”

Conclusion

Payment of a mediator’s fee is serious business. And the Court in Linares v. Suarez is insisting that payment be accomplished.

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