In the November 2015 edition of Resolution Strategies, I shared the story of a “transformative moment in mediation,” in which a 77 year old man had taken it upon himself to forgive the young woman whose negligence had caused him fairly severe injuries. As I described it back then, plaintiff “reached out to hug her, she accepted his embrace, and the tears began to flow.” Due to a “simple act of kindness” by a “good and decent man,” that young woman’s life was transformed that day.

Two weeks ago, under strikingly similar yet decidedly different circumstances, it happened again. Like before, the case was straight-forward. Plaintiff, an active and youthful 69 year old, had been riding his bicycle when he was struck by an automobile making a right turn. Despite the blood dripping down his leg, he did not want to alarm his wife by going to the hospital nor by calling her on the phone to tell her what had happened. Instead, plaintiff asked whether defendant would be kind enough to drive him home, and defendant agreed to do so.

Thankfully, plaintiff’s injuries — though undoubtedly serious, especially given that he was taking blood thinners at the time due to a recent history of atrial fibrilation — were not life-threatening. They were, however, life altering.

A self-described “exercise” junkie, accustomed to working out at the gym every day and riding his bicycle for pleasure and exercise, plaintiff had been relegated to a sedentary and pain-filled life, having to forego many of what he considered to be life’s joys. Before the accident, plaintiff had considered himself “69 going on 50.” At mediation, he described himself as “72 going on 80.”

As so often happens, plaintiff’s wife was also a victim of defendant’s negligence. Her life with her husband had been turned upside down and her emotional pain — despite her stoic attitude at mediation — was both obvious and acute.

At one point, I asked a question which unleashed a torrent of pent-up tears from plaintiff’s wife. Knowing I could never adequately convey her pain, I gently suggested it might be best for her to speak directly to defense counsel and the claims adjuster. Although plaintiff’s wife initially rejected the idea outright, plaintiff’s counsel encouraged her to reconsider — and she did.

A few moments later, plaintiff, his wife and their attorney walked with me to the conference room assigned to defense counsel and the claims adjuster, where plaintiff’s wife explained how her golden years with her husband had been changed in an instant — once again breaking into tears.

The meeting probably lasted less than five minutes, but plaintiff and his wife — like the young defendant in November 2015 — were instantly transformed. The case settled shortly thereafter. Before they left, the claims adjuster and defense counsel both came to say goodbye to plaintiff and his wife, and — as had happened back in 2015 — hugs were exchanged.

The next morning, plaintiff’s wife sent me an email, which included the following passage:

“Your inspiration to suggest that we talk directly to the opposing attorney and the claims adjuster was unexpected but turned out to be a true blessing and provided us a closure we never could have had otherwise. Having the opportunity to express ourselves directly to the opposing side, and having them truly listen to us and in the end offer us sympathy, hugs, and words of compassion, was extremely comforting.”

Of course, the meeting could not have been arranged without the cooperation of both counsel, who realized there were more important issues to resolve than the dollar amount that would fairly compensate plaintiff for his injuries.

Forgive me for borrowing a few more words that I wrote back in November 2015, but they are as relevant today as they were then:

“As indispensable players in the mediation process, lawyers should never lose sight of the role they can play in making mediation truly transformative. The results just might bring a tear to your eye.”

As always, I would be pleased to assist you and your clients in the dispute resolution process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.

Best regards . . .

Floyd J. Siegal

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