Settlements Can Be Painful

Posted on May 28, 2008 in Local Issues

The Times Picaynue is reporting about the dissatisfaction of some folk who are plaintiffs in the case against ExxonMobil (and other big oil companies) for contaminating land near the Harvey Canal … and it is just one more example about how settlements rarely make anyone really happy.

Settlements resolve disputes by way of compromise.  No one goes away from the table a clear winner because everyone has had to give something up in order to get the deal done and move forward in life. 

Take these plaintiffs:  this huge settlement amount has to be distributed among many, many families and the way that’s being done is through a point system.  More points, more dollars.   This means that those with only a few points, or just one point, are getting very little cash for their exposure to contaminated land that may result in cancers, miscarriages, etc. and they are not happy about this. 

Would you be, if you’re offered less than 1000 bucks in a $1 billion jury verdict than later got reduced by the appeals court to a $112 million dollar award? 

Still, it’s the risk you take in these big suits — and it’s a sad but true commentary on how some professionals view these cases: it’s a numbers game.  Before you get too mad at the lawyers, look at the insurance company actuaries: your own life insurance coverage is based upon the same game.  Points are assigned, premiums are set.

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