Sunday, November 24, 2013

In re Atlantic Pipe Corp. case brief

In re Atlantic Pipe Corp. case brief summary
304 F.3d 135 (2002)


CASE SYNOPSIS
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. §§ 651-658.

DISCUSSION

  • 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. 
  • In the 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. 
  • The case 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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