In re Atlantic Pipe Corp. case brief summary
304 F.3d 135 (2002)
Petitioner, a contractor and one of
twelve parties involved in complex litigation following the failure
of a large public works construction project, sought a writ of
mandamus to the United States District Court for the District of
Puerto Rico, challenging the court's authority to compel it to
participate in, and share the costs of, non-binding mediation
conducted by a private mediator.
CASE FACTS After the project was finished, a
segment of the pipeline burst, and the owner incurred significant
costs in repairing the damage. The district court, faced with a mass
of cross and counter claims between the parties to the construction,
appointed a law school professor to mediate the complex controversy.
One of the contractors objected, and sought mandamus from the court
of appeals. The court first noted that the particular district court
had not adopted local rules for mediation pursuant to the Alternative
Dispute Resolution Act of 1998 (ADR Act), 28 U.S.C.S. §§
The court of appeals ruled that the district court could
have ordered mandatory mediation pursuant to either an explicit
statutory provision or local rules adopted under the ADR Act.
absence of such authority, the court nonetheless could order
mandatory mediation through the use of its inherent judicial powers.
However, to be valid, the case had to be appropriate for mediation
and must provide adequate safeguards, such as limits on the fees that
the mediator could charge and a timetable for the mediation.
was remanded so that such guidelines could be instituted in the case.
CONCLUSION The order of the district court was
vacated and the case remanded, because the mediation order, as
entered, lacked procedural safeguards, and the district had not
adopted implementing local rules complying with the statutory mandate
for such mediation.
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