Monday, December 27, 2004

Aggressive Settlement Demand May Lead to Claim of Extortion!

Florida’s new Mediation Confidentiality and Privilege Act, Chapter 44, Florida Statutes, contains specific references to the commission of a crime during mediation. For example, F.S. 44.403(1), in defining “mediation communication”, provides “The commission of a crime during a mediation is not a mediation communication.” Also, F.S. 44.405(4)(a)(2) provides that there is no confidentiality or privilege for any mediation communication that “is willfully used to plan a crime, commit or attempt to commit a crime, conceal ongoing criminal activity, or threaten violence . . . .”

This article in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise illustrates a California case where a lawyer is being sued as a result of settlement demands which allegedly exceeded bona fide attempts at resolution. This elicits the issue of whether an aggressive settlement demand may rise to the level of extortion. If this type of conduct occurred during mediation in Florida could it also lead to a claim of “extortion” and hold other consequences for the lawyer? Extortion is a crime in Florida, F.S. 836.05.

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