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Brooks v. Lincoln Life Insurance Co.

Case No. 05-118

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Brooks v. Lincoln Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court for the District of Nebraska

Case No. 05-118

Facts

Catherine Brooks (plaintiff) brought suit against Lincoln Life Insurance Co. (Lincoln) (defendant) in district court. In order to attempt to reach a settlement, Brooks and Lincoln and their respective counsel participated in mediation. The mediator was Michael Mullin. The mediation began at 9:30 a.m. in Mullin’s office. Mullin separated the parties and caucused with each for approximately 30 minutes. Mullin was authorized by Lincoln to communicate an offer to Brooks. Mullin relayed Lincoln’s offer to Brooks. Lincoln’s offer was far below Brooks’s valuation of the case, and Brooks’s counsel dismissed it as unacceptable. Brooks’s counsel did not make a counter-demand and instead demanded Lincoln put a serious offer on the table or else he and Brooks were leaving. Mullin conveyed the message to Lincoln. Lincoln authorized Mullin to convey a box offer, in which Lincoln would raise their offer to a stated amount if Brooks lowered her demand to a stated amount. Brooks’s counsel immediately rejected the offer. Mullin attempted to explain to Brooks that Lincoln did not value Brooks’s claim at nearly the same level proposed by Brooks. Mullin mistakenly told Brooks that her demand exceeded Lincoln’s representative’s authority instead of using the word “valuation.” Brooks thus was given the impression Lincoln did not have full authority to settle the claim and said that Lincoln was not in compliance with the mediation reference order, which required Lincoln to have sufficient authority to meet Brooks’s last demand. Mullin did not correct his mistake, and Brooks’s counsel indicated that the mediation was over and instructed Mullin to tell Lincoln he would be filing a motion for sanctions. Brooks left at approximately 11:45 a.m. Brooks moved for sanctions against Lincoln and its counsel, alleging they failed to comply with the mediation reference order. Lincoln filed a motion for sanctions against Brooks for failing to mediate or negotiate in good faith.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Piester, J.)

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