Cecil Staton, the Republican state senator from Macon, has settled through mediation a long running dispute with Georgia Southern University (GSU). Mr. Staton’s radio network, Georgia Eagle Media, defaulted on paying GSU the agreed upon percentage of advertising fees generated as a result of broadcasting GSU football games. GSU threatened to withdraw the right to broadcast the games from Georgia Eagle Media. Mr. Staton agreed to pay a portion of the fees and GSU lowered its expectations.
Both sides eventually came to an agreement using a mediator to help them come up with a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement was filed with the court. The question arises though: what if Mr. Staton once again refuses to pay his bill, resulting in another cancellation threat from GSU? Does either side have any recourse to enforce the mediation agreement?
Under Georgia law, the two sides to a mediation meeting must come to a voluntary agreement. The mediator only works to facilitate a deal between the two sides but does not issue any kind of a ruling. If the two sides cannot agree to a compromise with the help of a mediator, the case goes back to court and the sides do not lose their rights to a trial. However, if an agreement is reached, the attorneys for both sides work to draft a legal document codifying the agreement. The mediation agreement is then enforceable through the courts should one side or the other break the agreement.
If your company is working through mediation to settle a dispute, it is vital that you have an experienced business attorney on your side who understands the ins-and-outs such agreements. Relying exclusively on the good will of the other side, even in mediation, does not ensure that your best interests are protected.