One too many times a client has come to the firm with a personal injury settlement they are unhappy with. For some reason, they signed a release settling their claim for much less than it is worth; Maybe they really were short changed in the deal, maybe their previous representation did a bad job of negotiating on their behalf, maybe they feel their lawyer forced them into signing it or they didn't understand what they were signing; Whatever the case may be, only in the most rare situation will Court allow a settlement to be undone. The fact of the matter is, the Court wants finality, they want the matter to be disposed of and thus if there is a valid release with your signature on it, it is likely the end of the road for you on that matter. Unfortunately, there is no room for Buyer's remorse in the area of personal injury settlements.
A prime example of this type of situation came up recently in a Federal Appellate Court Decision. As depicted in the recent film The Social Network, the infamous Winklevoss twins had sued Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg, alleging that facebook was originally their idea, and he had stolen it. After much negotiation, the Winklevoss twins eventually settled with Zuckerberg for only $64 million. The twins allege in this suit that they were defrauded in the course of settlement negotiations with Mr. Zuckerberg. They claim he did not disclose the true value of Facebook, and his misrepresentation of this material fact led to the eventual settlement.
Sounds like a really good reason to undo the settlement, since the settlement was not negotiated in good faith right? Wrong. The Appellate Court said the twins were represented by a lawyer and they signed a release which released Zuckerberg forever from liability to them. Essentially the Appellate Court said to the Winklevoss twins, "Two bad, you get what you signed for."
The moral of the story here is that at some point a lawsuit must end, there must be some finality or the Courts would be more overcrowded then they already are, and nothing would ever get done. The decision cautions to all in contemplation of settling their lawsuit: Be careful what you sign for, because you just might get it.
For more information: Call (516) 478-0237
By: Candice L. Deaner, Esq.