Who must appear at a mediation?

At most of the mediations I preside over, the plaintiff and their lawyer are present, Empty Conference room with long table and chair with large glass windows background waiting for mediation. along with a representative from an insurer and defense counsel. It is common knowledge that the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure require all parties or their representatives and counsel be physically present at the mediation. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.720 (b) does allow a party to designate a representative to appear at the mediation on its behalf, if the representative has “full authority to settle without further consultation”. Thus, the Rules seem to allow a plaintiff to designate a representative to appear on its behalf at the mediation. If a plaintiff wants to designate someone to represent it at a mediation a Certificate of Authority must be filed in compliance with Rule 1.720 (e).

Who must appear from an insurer? Rule 1.720 (b) (3) states that the individual appearing on behalf of an insurer must be a “representative of the insurance carrier…who has full authority to settle in an amount up to the amount of the plaintiff’s last demand or policy limits, whichever is less, without further consultation.” In my experience, this part of the Rule is often overlooked by insurers. The representative of the insurer appearing at the mediation typically has authority to settle up to a certain amount, as determined by management. The representative cannot exceed this amount without consulting with management, and typically the authority bestowed upon the representative is less than the last demand or the policy limits. Could the failure of the insurer to send a representative with full settlement authority as described by the Rule lead to the imposition of sanctions? I suppose. I think the intent of the Rule is good, but as a practical matter I don’t think the Rule really takes into consideration the reality of how insurers work. Insurers collect information, analyze it, and evaluate the claim for settlement purposes prior to mediation. The evaluation of the claim and the authority given to the representative to settle the case is the product of a group dynamic. Requiring someone from the insurance company to appear at a mediation with essentially unlimited authority without consulting with anyone else is a great idea, but IMHO, it just doesn’t work in the real world.