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What’s a Mini-Trial?


No one ever plans on getting into a car wreck, and a serious collision can have a negative lasting effect on a person or family. When a Plaintiff is injured, often times the costly and timely process of litigation can be avoided or seriously reduced with the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) tactics.

ADR advocates are part of a movement amongst lawyers that attempts to cut down on the cost, time, and stress associated with the litigation process. Often times, litigation can take years and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to complete.

A mini-trial is statutorily defined and is an agreed-upon process by the parties:

  1. A mini-trial is conducted under an agreement of the parties.
  2. Each party and counsel for the party present the position of the party, either before selected representatives for each party or before an impartial third party, to define the issues and develop a basis for realistic settlement negotiations.
  3. The impartial third party may issue an advisory opinion regarding the merits of the case.
  4. The advisory opinion is not binding on the parties unless the parties agree that it is binding and enter into a written settlement agreement.

The mini-trial process is used in corporate or government litigation to provide decision-makers with the opportunity to solve legal issues while guarding future business or relationship interests. This type of ADR is not often used in personal injury law, as there are not typically as many moving parts in a personal injury lawsuit. In a mini-trial, opposing counsel present their best case to the parties (represented by top decision-makers with authority to settle) and to a third-party neutral party. The decision-makers then meet, either with or without the neutral advisor and negotiate. The focus is primarily on reaching business solutions rather than on settling specific legal issues.

Again, in this scenario, the expertise of the impartial third party is important in my opinion. Having someone truly impartial is key in order to have this process be successful.