While mediation is a process familiar to most U.S. attorneys, this alternative dispute resolution method is undergoing a significant evolution in the European Union, and specifically Italy. In particular, the concept of mandated mediation — where parties involved in certain types of disputes must try to mediate before heading to court — is gaining in popularity. Backed by some convincing statistics, the Italian model for mediation is gaining traction throughout Europe as a way of dealing with an overburdened judiciary.
The 2008 European directive on mediation and subsequent resolutions issued by the European Parliament reflect the desire to encourage mediation in the 27 EU member states. Italy’s own judicial backlog — estimated at 5.4 million cases and an average duration of eight years to litigate a case — motivated the passing of Legislative Decree No. 28/2010 in March 2010 to implement the EU directive and enact mandatory mediation for many civil and commercial disputes. Under the decree, parties to the following kinds of disputes must engage in mediation: neighbor and landlord/ tenant disputes, property rights, division of goods, trusts and estates, family-owned businesses, loans, disputes arising out of car and boat accidents, medical malpractice, libel, insurance, banking and financial contracts.
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