Some recent public incidents and articles about settlements have started me thinking about the problems with the current system. What seems to happen with virtually every civil legal case is that the parties come to an out of court settlement. The hallmark is that the defendant admits no liability/fault, the plaintiff gets some money, and both parties are under a gag order and/or non-disclosure agreement. This has two negative public policy implications:
(1) The public is unaware that a person or organization is victimizing/harming others
To use a recent example, if I see that Bill Cosby has settled a lawsuit with a victim I don’t know if he’s dangerous or simply taking the path that costs him the least amount of money. This allowed him to continue victimizing people.
(2) It looks like extortion instead of justice
If Cosby is paying someone to go away, instead of compensating for actual damage, then the court system becomes an extortion system. Essentially, the case becomes “Give me X or spend 3X on lawyers”. That’s not what the courts should be used for, and giving into extortion makes it more likely that others will be victimized.
To address these, I propose that in order to settle a lawsuit the settlement agreement must:
(1) Provide an agreed set of facts and the amount the suit is settled for. Each claim in the suit should be included and it should state whether the claim is true or not.
(2) The agreement is placed into the public record
(3) No non-disclosure, gag order, or other similar agreements