Profile of the Month – JOHN CHRISTENSEN
- How often do you have cases that involve mediation?
For our entire firm, Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel (Epic Law), we have mediation nearly every week if not a 3 or 4 times a month.
- What qualities do you look for in a mediator?
The best thing a mediator can do is have the ability to talk to, influence, and relate with the defendant, i.e., the people who control the money. I want to make sure the mediator has the knowledge, the skills, the chops, so to speak, to talk to the insurance company, which most of the time is represented by the adjustor. Defense counsel and their clients have to have confidence in the mediator. Most of the time we don’t actually see the defendant at mediation because the carrier is represented by an adjuster. The mediator might empathize with my client and show sympathy for the situation they find themselves in, but that is not what will get the mediation done. The mediator must be effective in convincing the defendant that they have some exposure—some risk, which means they need to pay something. An effective mediator understands how the defense works and knows how to get the defendant to cooperate and compromise.
- How strongly do you push to have a mediator you propose be accepted by the other side?
I don’t suggest a mediator to the defense team. I ask the defense who they want to use as mediator. If I find their recommendation acceptable, and most of the time I do, then I will go with the defense’s recommendation. If I’m in the position to propose a mediator, I will only suggest mediators who will be accepted by both sides. I don’t push hard at all to get “my mediator” to mediate the case.
I would only push more to recommend someone who I know the defense respects and will listen to what they have to say. I know my case. I know my client. I need the type of mediator who knows how to effectively push the other side.
- How important is pre-session communication with the parties prior to the actual mediation?
When the mediator greets me and my client for the first time, it’s an opportunity for the mediator to smooth over some of the concerns and fears that my client has about the process. Even though I’ve told my client what to expect, it’s really important for the mediator to tell my client about what to expect during the mediation and not to get upset by the initial offer. It’s a very important tool for the mediator to establish this initial framework because it sets the overall direction for the day.
- How important is it for the mediator to follow up if the mediation doesn’t result in a settlement?
Follow-up is useful, especially if there is reason to follow up. If both parties are saying this is ridiculous or saying there is no room to move toward settlement, then follow-up is not needed. Follow-up is useful if the parties can’t reach settlement because additional discovery has to happen, or if the parties just need some time to reflect and analyze their position. Many cases settle after the formal mediation and the best mediators stay on the case until it settles or trial is imminent.
- What ADR topics would you like to see discussed at an ADR-related CLE?
I’m interested in learning what the other side finds persuasive in a mediation and useful for moving the dialogue forward. I’m interested in learning what strategies are effective, and what strategies or actions are off-putting and counter-productive. I would appreciate learning from mediators how to implement a successful plaintiff strategy. When is it best to start off strong, or is it better to take a more measured approach. Ultimately, we want to know the best path moving forward to get the case resolved.
- Tell me more about your practice…
Since 1994, I’ve been doing exclusively plaintiff’s Personal Injury. My cases range from motor vehicle collisions and nursing home and elder abuse cases to Product Liability, Government Liability, and Premise Liability. My practice focuses on cases of serious injury, neglect and abuse in a variety of settings and factual patterns. There is rarely a dull moment at EPIC-Law. It keeps life very interesting.
- Are there any issues or trending topics that you would like to discuss?
As we’ve seen the aging of the population, we’re seeing a big uptick in healthcare negligence and nursing home negligence and abuse. As we grow older there are greater numbers of people who consume medical products and health care services. Greater numbers of people are entering nursing homes and are receiving hospital care. Consequently, there has been an uptick of legislation to protect vulnerable adults. RCW74.34 pertains to the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults; it’s a relatively new statue in our state that protects adults from financial, sexual, and physical abuse in places like nursing home facilities. This statute protects and helps elderly clients who may not have a claim under traditional negligence laws, and who do not have an income or any heirs or beneficiaries to make a claim on their behalf.
John Christensen earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University Of Puget Sound School Of Law in 1989, graduating cum laude. He received two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and English Literature from the University of Utah in 1985 and 1986.
With more than 28 years of experience practicing law, John has a wealth of knowledge in the legal industry. He served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington from 1989-1994, representing various agencies within the Department of Corrections and Department of Labor and Industries. John has also served on the Tacoma Pierce County Board of Trustees and as the Chairman of the Judicial Qualifications Committee and the Judicial Evaluation Committee. At the state level, John has served on the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee and is a prestigious Double Eagle member with the Washington State Association for Justice where he provides strategic advice to other attorneys on complex personal injury cases.
Throughout his career, John has received many awards to recognize his excellence in the legal community. John was elected President of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association in 2015, starting a three-year term of service. He also received the “Outstanding Service Award” from the bar in 2012. In addition to his work with the local bar, John was selected as one of Washington’s Top 40 Personal Injury attorneys by his peer. John was also chosen as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by The National Trial Lawyer, one of Washington’s “Super Lawyers”, and is a member of the Million Dollars Advocates Forum.
John’s successes include several multimillion dollar settlements in cases involving medical negligence, government supervision, highway design, dramshop liability and severe motor vehicle collisions. More recently, John was involved in a $4.2 million bicycle crash case, $3.5 million construction site case and $2.8 million swimming pool near drowning case.
Outside of his legal practice, John is a black belt in Taekwondo and competes in full contact Olympic sparring on the State and National levels. He has won national titles in sparring and forms in 2012 and 2013 as well as several State titles. John is also an avid collector and player of vintage guitars. John is married to Penny Allen, Senior Counsel with the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, and they have two children.