Would Face-to-Face Have Settled a Hip Hop Facedown? (Sept. 2).

How much does being face-to-face have an effect on mediation?

It certainly could not have hurt in the current litigation and ADR attempt between hip hop legends Suge Knight and Kanye West.

The mogul and the rapper have been unable to settle a suit that was brought by Knight against West last year. Mediation was tried, over the telephone, but failed.

Knight, the former Death Row Records CEO, alleged that West should be responsible for damages he sustained at a party West threw at Miami’s Shore Club, in the city’s South Beach section, in 2005.

According to the New York Post, Knight alleges that he was shot and robbed at the party. He is seeking more than $1 million in damages to cover, among other things, $200,000 in medical bills and $135,000 for a diamond earring lost in the aftermath. Knight also claims that both West and the Shore Club failed to provide adequate security.

The parties have had two opportunities to settle the case. According to a blog on the Miami New Times’ website, the first attempt occurred in June, which resulted in West, and his attorney, walking out.

Ace Showbiz (via the World Entertainment News Network, a global entertainment text and photo wire services provider) reported that there was a second session a week ago.

This time West attended the session over the telephone. The mediation didn’t produce a settlement, and Knight’s attorney says in the reports that there will be a trial.

This set of facts raises several important questions:

Does being face-to-face improve the quality and result of mediation?

It is likely that face-to-face mediation will improve the quality of, and garner better results in, the mediation process. This is because one of the many benefits of mediation is the opportunity to meet your adversary on a (relatively) even keel outside of the adversarial model. By calling in, there is potential for undermining the spirit of the session.

True, face-to-face didn’t work the first time around in June. But first mediation sessions also often are known to focus on laying the groundwork for a settlement later.

Even if they didn’t pick up from where they left off, the parties would have had a better chance for success if they had met face to face. Without West’s attendance, the chances of a symbolic handshake that precedes a more-concrete deal was not likely.

In what ways could mediating over the telephone be an advantage/disadvantage?

Advantages and disadvantages of using the telephone as a medium would likely depend on the dynamic between the parties. A party may believe that mediating by phone will afford an opportunity to “hide” weakness in his or her case, even if the party is of being unable to see the adversary and fully immerse himself or herself in the mediation.

A party in a comparatively stronger position may use the telephone as a way to unnerve the ‘weaker’ party.

And a drawback for either party could be the limited ability to control the pace of the mediation session.

Was mediation, in an attempt to settle the suit, really a viable option?

Maybe not. Having these two high-profile individuals in the same room, with outsized personalities, might not have been wise. Bridging the gaps between the personalities, let alone the subject matter, would not be an easy task, even for highly skilled and experienced veteran mediators.

On the other hand, both have had bouts with the legal system, with Knight having served significant prison time for repeated violations of his parole in the mid-to-late 90s. Reducing the media glare in this particular case likely would be appealing.

In fact, Knight told the Associated Press that he figured he could sit West down “…man to man, and get this resolved. …” Perhaps the mediation efforts failed because West was unable to deliver just that.

--Charles Hwang, CPR Intern