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Mediation Helps Make Court a Last Resort

Regarding part one of the ``Business Goes to Court'' series, Jan. 25: As an experienced mediator, I have rejoiced to see a growing acceptance and implementation of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the United States. Interpersonal and international issues are being resolved through interest-based negotiation between the parties to disputes, resulting in nonadversarial explorations of each other's issues and concerns.

Many of the personal injury and liability cases, such as those involving the small-plane builders featured in the article ``Injury Lawsuits Said to Cause Financial Crisis for Many US Companies,'' could be handled in mediation. With the assistance of experienced, impartial third parties, individuals and organizations are daily formulating mutually acceptable agreements and contracts that they feel are fair and that they are willing to carry out.

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The key to these win-win solutions is that they are created by the primary parties themselves, to suit their particular needs. Since these mediations are entered into voluntarily, rather than imposed by an arbitrator or judge, there is a better than 90 percent chance of their being implemented. The costs in time, money, energy, and emotions are minuscule compared with the traditional adversarial route of litigation, and usually relationships between the parties are improved rather than ruptured. An increasing number of businesses are adding ADR clauses to their contracts, whereby mediation, followed by arbitration, are first recourses in case disputes should arise between them and their clients. The courts, which are overburdened, become a last resort.

Let us encourage government and industry to employ user-friendly routes to resolving complex conflicts. We should resolve our differences constructively by working together toward solutions that will benefit all parties. Elisabeth Seaman, Palo Alto, Calif.

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