Though common in litigation, confidential settlements can be controversial.

While confidentiality agreements had help expedite settlement, there are concerns that secret settlements can work against public safety by covering up health and safety hazards. As with much in life, the hardest choices are not between good and bad, but between good and good, and between bad and bad.

Under a confidential settlement agreement or order, some or all terms of a settlement are kept secret. Defense lawyers routinely include a confidentiality clause in a proposed release when there is a large settlement. Sometimes it is a throwaway item in a

mediation_explainedHaving served as the neutral mediator in hundreds of cases as well as the advocate for clients in hundreds of other mediations, I have come to see both the strengths and weaknesses of this method of settling personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Judges love to refer cases for mediation because every case that settles is one less case the judge has to deal with on the court docket. It simply saves the judge a lot of time and work. Perhaps the chances of court ordered mediation succeeding could be improved with a little more court involvement in setting up

As a Georgia trial attorney handling trucking accident cases, I see too many instances of truck driver fatigue and drug usage leading to tragedy.  The pattern is exemplified in a Missouri case.  It has resulted in an $18 million settlement for the deaths of four family members (ages 55, 57, 81 and 94) on the way to a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. 

The truck driver had less than the required amount of rest the night before, according to subpoenaed cell phone records, and  was on eight prescribed medications that warned of possible drowsiness.   Witnesses said he was falling asleep at the wheel before he sped past warning signs and a flagman, slammed into a long line of cars, crossed the median and jackknifed on the opposite side of the highway.

According to a report by Joe Meyer of the Columbia Tribune, a family member said, "The money wasn’t something that we were after.  It was just a way to give a message in this part of town that the truckers should not be out there like that."