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Wrongful death case involving jail suicide to go to mediation

Pennsylvania readers may remember the story of Sandra Bland, the woman who died last year in a Texas county jail cell after being arrested for a minor traffic violation. The death was classified a suicide, but critics said law enforcement handled the situation improperly by failing to put Bland on suicide watch, failing to check on her, and not taking other precautions to prevent death by suicide.

Bland’s mother has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court accusing law enforcement and jail officials of gross misconduct. The case is reportedly set for mediation in hopes that the parties will be able to settle the case without a jury trial. Mediation was actually ordered by the judge in this case, though it isn’t entirely clear why.

There are various reasons mediation might be ordered in a federal case, but commentators have said it may be that the judge ordered mediation because he thinks the case has a decent chance of settling. Whatever the reasons for the mediation order, the parties will have the opportunity to see if they can work out a mutually acceptable agreement privately.

There are advantages to settling a case in mediation, of course. These include potential cost savings, and increased privacy. Mediation doesn’t always work out, of course, and its effectiveness depends on not only on the willingness of the parties to negotiate an workable agreement, but also on the skill of the mediator in facilitating the process. Working with an experienced mediator can certainly help ensure any mediation process has the best chance of succeeding. 

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