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Seriously Avoiding In-person Mediations for Awhile

July 11, 2020

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It will not come as a surprise to anyone that, due to my age (66) and an underlying heart condition, I am extremely concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19.  Consequently I have been conducting only online mediations by video conference in the short term.

Due to recent input (see below), I have had to give much more serious thought in the past few days regarding in-person mediation sessions in the longer term.

In short, I have decided to avoid them and not to conduct them for awhile, at least for the next three months, maybe longer.

As I have written before, I believe that mediation by online video conference is a much better way to go presently. See, https://karpmediation.wordpress.com/2020/06/12/is-mediation-by-video-conference-better-given-the-circumstances/

I am certain that there are others who are less nervous about it, but for me and for my wife, the prospect of my spending more than just a few minutes together with others, in person, especially in a closed conference room with possibly inadequate ventilation, is scary to say the least (not that I think the lawyers or clients are scary – I’m just fearful of contracting the virus.)

According to my daughter, a physician in family practice, “It’s serious, Dad.”

Fortunately, as I have said, I have been scheduling and conducting Zoom mediations in the short term, which the participants seem to find satisfactory, even enjoyable. (Outcome appears, so far, to be about the same as in-person mediations, vis-a-vis settlement or not.)

My worry crescendoed this week, after a request for an in-person mediation, when I reached out to a colleague about his current mediation practices.

He told me that his office is closed to the public and that he has been conducting only Zoom mediations, and will continue doing the same probably through the end of the year.

Shortly thereafter, for further input I contacted the program coordinator of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Real Estate Mediation Center for Consumers (I am on its mediator panel) to see if C.A.R. is still not permitting in-person mediations.

Here is her response:

We advise you check your local news to verify if restrictions have been lifted. Below is our current messaging to our clients.

NOTE- revised 5/26/20: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person mediations may not be permitted at this time and it is uncertain when they will be permitted to resume. In addition, not all parties, counsel or mediators involved in a mediation may be comfortable with an in-person mediation until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. [Most of our panel mediators offer online mediation services via teleconferencing and videoconferencing solutions.] We encourage the parties to consider these services to ensure a timely resolution to their dispute….

Local news is currently reporting a spike in COVID-19 cases and a possible return to stay-at-home orders. See, e.g. https://patch.com/california/encino/s/h68l6/worsening-outbreak-could-cause-return-stay-home-orders.

Also yesterday I read that, in addition to the risk from coughing, sneezing, singing or even talking in close-contact closed spaces, now there is a concern about lingering airborne transmission of the virus in closed spaces.

Finally, just last evening, I learned that Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile issued a new General Order delaying trials as the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated, ordering, among other things, that the Court will not set any Civil jury trials to commence before January 2021, although certain Unlawful Detainer (eviction) jury trials will be set to commence on or after October 5, 2020.

So, as you can tell from all of the input I received, I am not comfortable with an in-person mediation, not only in the short term but more likely for a longer term than previously anticipated, at least for the next three months if not longer.

And my wife isn’t comfortable with it either, which I have to respect for purposes of “Shalom Bayit,” i.e. peace of the home.

So, based on the above, I will continue online with Zoom mediations, only, to help attorneys and their clients resolve their disputes which otherwise will continue in suspense based on court unavailability.

And I will avoid in-person mediations at least the next three months, if not longer.

That’s the best I can do under the circumstances.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

*This post is marked “Advertisement” so as to comply with the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct if applicable.

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