The Story

We arrived at the mediation and greeted the plaintiff, a lovely lady who’d become an incomplete quadriplegic through no fault of her own. She’d been a belted passenger. But it wasn’t our fault either. The vehicle was just fine.

We’d taken her deposition on the morning of 9/11 and lived through that horrible day together, so we had a kind of bond. It was good to see her again, and we told her so. Always positive, she said, “I really like your tie. I wish my husband would wear ties like that.”

Her lawyers gave their presentation and we gave ours. Then the two sides retired to their breakout rooms. They made a demand. We made an offer. They made another demand, and back and forth we went as the numbers got closer but not close enough. Then the mediator came back with a new demand. “Okay. They’ve come down a lot. She said she’ll take X dollars, but she also wants Mr. Spencer’s tie.”

We said, “We’ll offer Y, and here’s the tie.”

The mediator said, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” And off he went. We ended up getting the case settled. The plaintiff’s husband is still wearing that tie.

You see, lots of the battles we fight are not against the parties but with them. To get a case settled, you have to work with the other side to find a middle ground where each side’s needs can be satisfied. Sometimes, that means you have to fight feelings of loss, despair and even anger. Those are battles you have to fight together.

We often think about that lady and that necktie. And when we do, we can’t help but smile because, by working together, we were able to avoid a courtroom battle that none of us wanted to wage.