Profile of the Month – BRANDON K. BATCHELOR

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Brandon Batchelor is a personal injury and civil litigation attorney at Russell & Hill, PLLC.  Brandon devotes his practice to helping people who have suffered injuries through the fault of businesses, government entities, and other persons.

Brandon first became licensed to practice law in Illinois, where he worked as a prosecutor. After moving to Seattle, Brandon became licensed to practice law in Washington.  Since that time, he has devoted his entire practice to civil litigation, handling personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, malpractice, and construction defect lawsuits.  Brandon has previously represented the insureds of major insurance carriers including Lloyd’s of London, Farmers, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, and Zurich.  Brandon has handled several multi-million dollar cases including catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death, construction defect, product liability, and professional liability matters in all phases up to and including trial and appeal.

Brandon then transitioned his practice away from representing insurance companies.  He now represents only injured persons.  In doing so, he brings the knowledge and experience of working as an insurance defense attorney to the benefit of his current clients.  This knowledge includes “behind the curtain” information as to how insurance companies defend lawsuits, how they value claims, and what they consider when evaluating a personal injury claim.  Brandon’s experience working for insurance companies not only molded him as a seasoned and capable trial attorney, it has given him the ability and know-how to guide a personal injury matter to success at all phases of litigation.

Brandon is licensed to practice in Washington, Oregon, and Illinois.

  1. How often do you have cases that involve mediation?

Our primary practice is in Snohomish County—that’s where we carry our heaviest workload. Unlike King County, Snohomish County does not have a local civil rule rule pertaining to ADR that requires the parties in the lawsuit to make some effort toward resolving the dispute through mediation prior to going to trial. Mediation is not solution for every case.

My practice has shifted from defense work to the plaintiff side. In The first four years of my law practice, I was defense counsel in cases involving personal injury, professional liability and contract disputes—all civil litigation. Now my practice is entirely personal injury from the plaintiff side.  At my firm, we mediate about 25% of the cases in litigation.

I find it considerably more rewarding to help people recover from their injuries as opposed to helping insurance companies keep their money. I’ll probably do this for the rest of my career.

  1. What qualities do you look for in a mediator?

There are two major reasons for having a mediator involved in the case. For one, my client might have unreasonable expectations regarding the outcome of the litigation. In this type of case, I might want to conduct a mediation to bring people into reality instead of thrusting them into trial, which is a whole new world.

Mediation is helpful to bring them into the milieu’ of an actual trial. The mediator will help the parties understand the reality of the situation. Another reason for having a mediator involved is because the mediator is the voice of reason, offering encouragement and building a trustful relationship at the outset. A good mediator will immediately establish a rapport built on trust.  He explains the system, the goals of what we’re trying to accomplish, and makes all of the parties know that he’s aware of all of the facts; he’s read the materials.

One important quality of the mediator is the skill of being truly neutral; the mediator doesn’t have skin in the game. The parties are able to place trust in the neutral. Once trust is in place, the mediator can work with the client who doesn’t have manageable or realistic expectations. The skilled neutral is also able to get the ear of the insurance adjustors to bring them to a point where the case can be resolved.

Mediation is a delicate balance. A good mediator is both a cheerleader and a doomsayer. Some mediators are great and incredible attorneys, but they can’t control the room with the insurance adjustor. A good mediator is willing to go into the next room and tell the insurance adjustors that they’re not evaluating the case correctly. The ability for the mediator to push on an adjustor and have that be observable by my clients, let’s my clients know how hard we’re trying to get a successful outcome.

If my client is paying $2,500 for a process that is non-binding, the true resolution of the situation is when my client walks away from the mediation feeling that their money was well spent.

  1. How strongly do you push to have a mediator you propose be accepted by the other side?

It just depends. I have a list of absolute NOs, based on mediators who are not skilled enough, or they’re inflexible about things like fees. Most of the mediators I trust, are those I became comfortable with as an insurance defense attorney. If I propose my top three picks, I can always count that at least one of my proposed mediators will be among the the top three picks of the defense.  That makes the process easier.

  1. Pacific ADR: How important is pre-session communication with the parties?

I don’t know that pre-session communication is super important as long as the materials are being reviewed.  My mediation briefs are public and thorough, and I send them to everyone.  As long as the materials are reviewed beforehand, that will work just fine. If there is some unique legal analysis, then the mediator might not be familiar with, then maybe that would be important, and pre-session communication would be needed. I generally don’t speak to a mediator about a case until we are in the conference room. So long as they’ve read the materials, I don’t care about anything else.

  1. Pacific ADR: How important is it for the mediator to follow up if the mediation doesn’t result in a settlement?

It’s incredibly important!  Especially if you want my business again!  There are a handful of mediators who you never hear from again if the mediation fails. I’ve had more cases settle post-failed-mediation, than actually settle at the mediation.  There is only a small amount of time when the mediator can go back and continue to press for settlement, which is why follow-up is incredibly important.

  1. Pacific ADR: What ADR topics would you like to see discussed at an ADR-related CLE?

 If was going to listen to a panel of mediators discuss ADR-related topics, there are two things I want to learn. I would ask the panelists:

  1. What materials do you want to see? How can I properly and effectively brief you?
  2. From a plaintiff Personal Injury perspective, I’d like to hear resolution tactics to use within the paradigm of mediation. Should my letter be public? What do you think works the best to attain reasonable resolution?
  1. Pacific ADR: Tell me more about your practice…

My firm has offices in Everett, Spokane and Portland. The majority of our Personal Injury cases are in Oregon and Washington. We are focusing on growing in Spokane. Twenty-five percent of our litigated cases are in Oregon. Currently, we have about 100 Personal Injury cases in litigation, primarily auto and professional liability.  We do a fair amount of medical malpractice and insurance Bad faith cases that arise out of auto accidents, arson and property damage.

  1. Pacific ADR: Are there any issues or trending topics that you would like to discuss?

Lower value claims aren’t paying damages.  Juries are conservative.   The system for reducing claim value is the overall big trend that I’ve seen in my career. I settle the bad ones, and try the good ones.

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