In order to capitalize on the successes of its ad hoc mediation process, the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court instituted a formal mediation program in 2017 by which parties can request that a pending claim be mediated by an impartial judge. There are a few requirements that must be met in order to participate in the mediation program:
If the parties opt to enter into the mediation program and the trial judge approves, the pending litigation remains on the trial judge’s calendar, but the trial need not necessarily proceed unless and until the mediation is concluded. If the mediation results in a settlement, the matter is returned to the trial judge’s calendar for a settlement approval hearing. If the mediation does not result in a resolution of the claim or the pending litigation, then the matter simply returns to the trial judge’s calendar for conclusion of trial. Thus, there is almost no procedural detriment to participating in mediation.
Upon entering into the program, the matter will be assigned to a retired or active judge, other than the trial judge. The parties will then meet with the mediating judge at a scheduled time and conduct the mediation. Some claims cannot be resolved in a single session and may therefore require additional sessions, which are permissible.
Anecdotally, the program has been extremely successful in resolving claims. In our firm’s experience, we have been able to resolve a number of problematic claims, saving the client both time and potential expense.