Wheel appeal


Mediator has been a cyclist for 27 years

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Peter Houk once mediated a dispute in Wisconsin between a craft brewer and a German company that installed the brewing equipment. The installer had lived with the brewer during the installation, and become fast friends — but during the course of the dispute, the two sides were so estranged they couldn’t meet face to face.

“It took two days but at the end they were in the same room and agreeing to do more business,” says Houk, an arbitration and mediation attorney with Fraser Trebilcock in Lansing, whose primary focus is Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Houk’s all-time favorite case was a young couple that bought a lottery ticket together. After a huge win, the man ran off with the proceeds – and a new girlfriend.

“After several hours we were getting nowhere and the plaintiff said if she could just talk to her former boyfriend alone, she could get this settled,” Houk says.

Houk put the two of them in a room and stood outside the door, since there had been abuse issues. The voices grew louder – then the young woman bolted from the room crying and ran down the hall. Houk followed to find out what had transpired behind closed doors. The woman told Houk, “Just write it up.” Houk went back to the room where the defendant, also in tears, said the same thing: “Just write it up.” 

“They agreed to split the money 50/50,” Houk says. “I sure would like to know what was said in that room.”

A certified mediator with the International Mediation Institute, and a member of the State Bar of Michigan Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, Houk became a fan of ADR during his 17 years as an Ingham County Circuit Court judge, the last 10 as chief judge.


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