Disputes between and among owners of family-owned businesses are sometimes unavoidable. When such disputes progress to litigation, they can be extremely costly, time-consuming, and disruptive for the business and its owners. However, most civil lawsuits still settle before reaching a trial before a judge or jury. More specifically, many of those suits settle through mediation. Indeed, judges routinely encourage parties to attempt to settle their disputes, through mediation or otherwise, before setting a trial date.

Mediation is a process through which parties to a dispute select a neutral third-party – often a retired judge or an attorney with subject-matter experience – to attempt to broker a deal between the opposing sides. Mediation sessions are confidential and provide an opportunity for parties to explore a variety of options for resolving their dispute that otherwise may become unavailable once the case is put in a judge or jury’s hands. If done early in the life of a case, mediation can also allow the parties to avoid substantial litigation costs and business disruption.


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Litigation among family-business owners often ends with a negotiated settlement agreement instead of a trial and entry of judgment on the parties’ claims.  Through a settlement, the parties have the flexibility to agree upon any applicable business terms, including any payment to be made to the claimant and the scope of any release to be provided in exchange for the payment.  However, settling parties should document any settlement agreement clearly so they know what rights, if any, are being released and, what rights, if any, they can continue to assert against each other after the settlement is finalized.

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