After posting two Blogs (Effective Endgame Communications; Influence and Persuasion) regarding the topic of settlements, I was amused by SLABBED referring to settlements as "kissing one’s sister." While that was on my mind, I was provided our Leeds Appellate Answer Brief to a trial that I won with Jean Niven in 2007. While I can understand that civil lawsuits play a very important role by uncovering socially significant information, the bottom line, as examplified in the Leeds case, is that most civil insurance lawsuits involve disputes between private parties where money is the heart of the issue.
In the late 1980’s, Tony Cunningham, a very prominant trial attorney, gave me some good advice that applies today. He told me that we are always salesmen for our clients, and our zealous advocacy in the courtroom comes only after we have failed to sell our client’s cause to our opponent before trial. I teach this to our attorneys because a relatively large and quicker monetary recovery is usually what is most important to our clients. Since we typically work on on a contingency fee basis, it is important to us as well.
The press reported the Leeds trial win. The Leeds’ neighbors were ecstatic because our theory of loss was that the Leeds’ home was on the ridge of an ancient relic sinkhole which caused the entire community to have homes damaged by earth movement covered under their policies. As a result of that trial, the neighbors also have hope for a recovery. We have more clients as a result of the publicity. But instead of acknowledging the loss and paying the Leeds’ claim, Citizens Property Insurance has fought us every step of the way, seeking to overturn the jury verdict. It has now been 18 months since the trial, and we have put no money in the Leeds’ hands. While we have publicly won so far and have not "kissed our sister" through a settlement, I am certain that our clients wished we could have obtained their recovery, which will be very large compared to the initial claim, through a much quicker private resolution rather than the public loss we are putting Citizens through.