There are many reasons why disputes do not settle, in mediation or outside of it.  Often, a party is just not ready — it’s the wrong time for them.  They need more information or they need more time to assimilate, absorb and assess information given to them.  What parties don’t often consider is that sometimes timing can ruin a proposed settlement.

A case in point is an annexation dispute in Indiana.  A number of homeowners in an unincoprorated area are fighting being annexed into Fishers.  As an incentive prior to a lawsuit being filed, the town offered a 3 year declining tax abatement to the affected residents, which was rejected at the time.  The judge ordered the case into mediation and prior to today’s initial session, one of the homeowners group’s leaders came out and said they would now be willing to accept an abatement deal.

“The tax abatement was offered last year as an inducement to avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars litigating this case,” said Fishers attorney Bryan H. Babb, who noted the town since has been forced to battle residents’ attempts at incorporation, a legislative campaign to kill annexation, and the lawsuit, which was filed in April after months of confrontations.  “I have no indication from my client now that, after having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, they would be willing to even discuss tax abatement.”

Certainly lots of things can happen once the real talks begin.  But parties need to think about the possible outcomes of turning down a deal at the time it is proposed.