Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I have nothing substantive to add about the ups and downs of seven years of litigation in the Barbie vs. Bratz doll wars case. I’m not going to do an analysis of the legal issues in the case, even though they are somewhat interesting. All I want to do is remind people that this is the sort of thing that happens in litigation. Mattel won a $100 million judgment against its rival MGA a couple of years ago. That judgment was reversed last year, and in a new trial, MGA this week won an $89 million jury verdict against Mattel. In the same case. Was it worth it? MGA may have won the case (of course it’s not over yet), […]

What a shame, I told the participants in a mediation recently, that you people did not call me when this controversy started as a small, almost neighborly dispute, instead of waiting until it snowballed into a giant lawsuit. In this case, the plaintiff’s claimed damages had greatly escalated due to the delay in resolving the problem. That can happen in real estate or personal property disputes where a property might sit vacant or in deteriorating condition for a long time, and it can also happen in contractual disputes where the harm to one or both parties’ businesses increases by virtue of the continuance of controversy. It can happen in employment litigation when a party’s focus on the injustices of the […]

As mediation has become more of an accepted and even required step in many lawsuits, expectations and practices of parties involved in litigation seem to have shifted somewhat.  We see a lot of lawsuits filed with the expectation that the filing will eventually lead to a formal settlement conference or a court-appointed or private mediation.  Parties sometimes postpone doing expensive discovery or filing expensive summary judgment motions, with the hope of resolving the case at a mediation conference. If that is the expectation, why even bother with filing the complaint?  Of course filing a complaint serves important purposes like framing the issues, announcing the seriousness of the filer’s intentions, tolling the statute of limitations, and perhaps other purposes.  But if […]

Even though I have lived in California for 20 years, I still find the habits of California drivers a bit strange.  This morning I once again marveled at how much trouble drivers here have merging into a single lane when one lane is blocked due to construction or some other activity.  Instead of just automatically doing an alternate merge into the single lane, a whole series of elaborate games seems to be required.  The cars in the unblocked lane try to close the gap to prevent the blocked cars from changing lanes, and the cars in the blocked lane often feel the need to engage in a lot of hand signals and gestures in order to continue on their way, […]

“Preparation, preparation, preparation,” is the trial lawyer’s mantra. It is possible to over-try a case, but it is not possible to be over-prepared for trial. On the other hand, preparation is expensive. And preparation may seem wasteful, if the case does not go to trial, as most cases don’t. So most trial lawyers would rather avoid burdening their clients with unnecessary costs, i.e., costs that are not going to help try the case if it must be tried, or that would help settle the case, which might mean costs that show the other side that you will be well-prepared for trial. Parties go to mediation precisely to avoid the enormous costs of preparing for trial. As long as they have […]