A recent ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court upheld a lower court decision that reinstated a $25 million settlement reached between a yacht manufacturer and a man who became a quadriplegic after a fall aboard one of the company’s vessels. While many people may never have an occasion to ride aboard a yacht, the case is nevertheless a useful illustration of how, with the help of skilled Illinois injury attorneys, one can achieve a successful result, whether that comes via a settlement or a verdict, and whether your injury is aboard a yacht or in an auto accident.
The underlying lawsuit arose from a terrible accident aboard a yacht. Scot, while hosting a party, fell from the vessel’s upper deck, and the eventual impact broke his neck, leaving him a quadriplegic. Scot and his wife launched a personal injury lawsuit against the yacht’s manufacturer as well as the entity that owned and chartered the vessel. Scot’s lawsuit alleged that the yacht was defective because it lacked proper railings or other protection around the edge of the boat deck. The two defendants were also negligent in that they improperly failed to prevent Scot “from accessing areas without railings” and failed “to warn about the lack of railings.”
The injured man settled with the owner and continued pursuing his case against the manufacturer. The decision regarding whether or not to settle your case before trial can be one of the more important choices in a case. A successful outcome after a trial may result in a larger recovery, but a pre-trial settlement offers a payment that is certain and more swiftly available and comes without the stress and other challenges of going to trial. Depending on the details of your case, it may make sense, as the plaintiff did here, to pursue some defendants and settle with others before trial.
The case went to trial against the manufacturer, and, while the jury was deliberating, the manufacturer and the plaintiff settled for $25 million. The manufacturer later tried to get that settlement thrown out based upon a note the jury sent to the judge while they were deliberating. The note, which the jury sent prior to the settlement, asked if they could find fault with the owner without finding fault with the manufacturer. The manufacturer asserted that this information was improperly concealed from it, and that concealment made the settlement invalid.
The trial court ultimately disagreed and, after motions from each side, allowed the settlement to stand. The manufacturer appealed but still lost, leaving the $25 million settlement still in place. The crux of the manufacturer’s argument was that the plaintiffs’ lawyer knew about the jury note before the manufacturer did and acted improperly by keeping that information from the defense, which made the settlement fraudulent. The appeals court, however, concluded that the plaintiffs’ lawyer did nothing wrong. The plaintiffs’ lawyer only had an ethical duty to advocate for clients and to be honest with the court and opposing parties. He had no fiduciary duty to the manufacturer. His duties did not require him to communicate with the opposing side simply because he had information about a note the jury sent to the judge. Since there was no misconduct, and the manufacturer did have knowledge of the note before finalizing the settlement, there was no basis to overturn it.
The resolution of this case shows how, sometimes, a settlement can be a successful way to resolve a case. Other times, though, pursuing a case all the way to a verdict may be the best path. For skillful advice and representation when it comes to these and other issues, look to the experienced Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck. Our attorneys have been helping injured people get results for many years. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.
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Katz Friedman Attorneys Secure Two Recent Trial Victories for Injured Teaching Professionals, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, July 25, 2017
Illinois Construction Worker Entitled to Recover from Settlement and Judgment, But Insurer Entitled to ‘Set Off’, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Dec. 23, 2016
Photo Credit: paulbr75, [CC0 License], via Pixabay