How mediation freed up the parties’ future plans

Written by John Appleby, Solicitor & Mediator at Leonard Gray.

So often in litigation, the dispute can take over the parties’ lives.  Their plans for spending or investing their money might have to be put on hold, frequently for long periods, to cover legal bills, Court fees and compensation that could end up having to be paid, in the event of the case being lost.  The parties can become completely chained to the proceedings, particularly where thousands of pounds are at stake.  This leads to inconvenience and, potentially, a huge amount of stress and anxiety.

This case involved a dispute between the seller and purchasers of a rural property.

Key Facts:

  • The new owner discovered that their home was worth less than the advertised purchase price.
  • The seller would not admit any liability.
  • The two parties had become chained to the litigation process, putting their life plans on hold.
  • Within 3 hours of mediation, both parties reached a mutual, agreed settlement.
  • The cost of mediation at £400 + VAT per party was considerably less than the expense of litigation and allowed both parties to reach a swift conclusion and get on with their plans.

Read on for the full story.

After contracts had been exchanged, it came to light that part of the property’s rear garden did not have the benefit of planning permission for residential/recreational use

In fact, this land was authorised for agricultural use only and the local council had threatened enforcement action as a result.  This lead to the value of the property being several thousands of pounds lower than the amount the purchasers had agreed to pay for it.

The seller denied liability

The purchasers argued that the planning problems were known by the seller and that the seller had concealed these from them.

The seller denied liability for breach of contract and misrepresentation.  The purchasers threatened court proceedings against them.  However, both parties expressed a willingness to mediate the case.

At the mediation, it was clear that both parties wanted the matter ‘out of the way’.  They both had financial plans which were being put on hold as a result of the case.  They also knew that there were merits, on both sides of the argument.  In addition, they recognised that the sum of money at stake and the large amounts that might potentially have to be spent on lawyers’ fees did not really justify the case being pursued before the Courts.  The case needed to be settled, so everyone could move on.

An agreement was reached in less than 3 hours

After various ‘shuttling’ between the seller and the purchasers during the mediation, a settlement figure was agreed.  The deal was done in less than three hours.

To the parties’ credit, their opening settlement proposals were realistic and well-reasoned, enabling further discussions to take place on a sensible footing.  Perhaps both of them were driven by their need to free themselves of the shackles the case had created for them.  I certainly think so.  The sigh of relief they expressed at the end of the mediation spoke louder than words.