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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, July 16, 2004

Sometimes negotiation is a delicate art, full of nuance and subtlety. And sometimes it is a game of Battleship. I just settled a case using Cybersettle, an on line double blind bid site. The way it works is, the insurer submits 3 settlement offers, which are the maximum amount that a matter can settle for during each of three settlement "rounds". The plaintiff's attorney is notified, logs onto the site, agrees to abide by the terms and conditions, then submits a demand. The demand represents the minimum that the case will settle for during each round. The system then compares the offer to the demand, after adding 20% to the demand to create a range. In any given round if the maximum offer is greater than or equal to the minimum demand, the claim will settle for the average of the two amounts up to the attorney maximum settlement amount. The defendant typically will start low, and the plaintiff, typically would start high. My case resolved on the third round, almost exactly where I wanted it to be. As a purely practical matter it looks pretty much like what a neutral does, without the posturing that usually goes with. It was kind of a Turing Machine mediation. If the case doesn't settle, the numbers are confidential, if it does, the company charges $200 bucks. As I say, it just worked for me, so I guess that makes me a fan. I certainly don't see that it hurts to try to settle a case using it, and it was fast enough. I wouldn't use it for every case, although I'm not exactly sure why, but on cases where you know what you want, and think you know what the other side might be willing to pop I think it is a pretty useful device.

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