New high in number of mediation cases
538 cases filed with 465 mediated, total of disputed sums hits record $2.7b
More people embroiled in disputes are choosing to talk things through, going by the record number of cases handled by the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) last year.
The disputed sums last year totalled $2.7 billion, also a record high since the SMC was set up more than 20 years ago, it said in a statement yesterday.
Last year, 538 matters were filed for mediation at the SMC, an 8 per cent rise from the previous year. Of these, 465 were eventually mediated, up 15 per cent from 2016.
The centre said its caseload has grown year on year, due to greater acceptance of mediation as "a more affordable, flexible and accessible dispute resolution option" instead of pursuing legal action in court.
Most matters mediated are commercial, with construction and company or shareholder disputes the most common.
The SMC, which comes under the Singapore Academy of Law, is a not-for-profit organisation providing commercial mediation services.
Its executive director, Mr Loong Seng Onn, said: "Our latest statistics show an ever increasing confidence that mediation can be effective in resolving high-value commercial cases."
A lot of people find mediation a kinder process...Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng
The increase in cases could be because Singapore lawyers have a professional obligation to "consciously advise" clients to pursue alternative dispute resolution, said Allen & Gledhill Senior Counsel Stanley Lai.
This followed an amendment to the Supreme Court Practice Directions in 2016, which compels lawyers to advise clients about the different ways disputes may be resolved, including mediation.
Dr Lai, a partner and head of the firm's Intellectual Property practice, said mediation can bring certainty to settled outcomes and save on legal costs.
"A key factor for successful mediation is that both parties are consciously willing to participate in the process and accept that a negotiated settlement entails concessions on the part of both parties," he said.
Mediation can resolve matters not just in terms of monetary compensation but also give parties emotional closure, said Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng.
The Legal Clinic law firm director said: "A lot of people find mediation a kinder process, and the closure it can provide is often valued a lot more than compensation."
Mediation also puts control in the hands of participants as it is up to parties to negotiate and work out an arrangement.
Ms Kuah, who specialises in medical law, cited a mediation case from some years ago, involving a couple whose young child died during a stay in hospital.
The mother had a lot of unresolved grief, said Ms Kuah, and questioned herself on whether she could have done more to help her child or called for a doctor's attention sooner.
But after the parties assured her that she had done everything right by her child and acknowledged that the medical team should have paid more attention to her instincts, the mediation was successful.