Can I Object to Court-Ordered Mediation?

In Texas, a party has to object in writing to the mediation referral within ten days after receiving notice. The court, in its discretion, may or may not refer the dispute to mediation. Section 154.022 of the Texas ADR Actprovides the basis for objection to referral pending litigation:

(a) If a court determines that a pending dispute is appropriate for referral under Section 154.021, the court shall notify the parties of its determination.

(b) Any party may, within 10 days after receiving the notice under Subsection (a), file a written objection to the referral.

(c) If the court finds that there is a reasonable basis for an objection filed under Subsection (b), the court may not refer the dispute under Section 154.021.

In Texas Dept. of Trans. v. Pirtle, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals addressed the consequences for not filing an objection under the Texas ADR Act. See Texas Dept. of Transp. v. Pirtle, 977 S.W.2d 657, 658 (Tex. App. — Fort Worth 1998, pet. denied). There, the defendant, the Texas Department of Transportation, failed to object to the mediation then, it refused to participate in the mediation. The trial court subsequently sanctioned the defendant. The defendant argued that the defendant never settles cases as a matter of policy. The court distinguished Pirtle from other cases where the duty to mediate in good faith did not apply. Gleason v. Lawson, 850 S.W.2d 714 (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi 1993, no writ) (Court did not order the mediation); Hansen v. Sullivan, 886 S.W.2d 467 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, no writ) (The parties mediated in good faith but the matter could not be resolved); Decker v. Lindsay, 824 S.W.2d 247 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, no writ) (Party objected to the mediation order but the court overruled the objection). Finally, the court of appeals, in upholding the sanctions award, found that the duty to mediate attaches when a party is served with a mediation order and fails to object.

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