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New York Court Discusses Confidential Settlement Agreements in Medical Malpractice Cases

In many medical malpractice lawsuits, there will be more than one defendant. Thus, it is not uncommon for a plaintiff to settle his or her claims against one defendant but to allow the remaining claims to proceed to trial. Typically, plaintiffs will wish to keep the terms of any settlement agreement confidential to protect their rights to seek a fair resolution of any remaining claims. The Supreme Court, Bronx County, New York, assessed when a plaintiff may be required to disclose the terms of a confidential settlement agreement in a recent orthopedic malpractice case. If you sustained an injury or illness because of inadequate care provided by an orthopedic surgeon, it is important to consult a capable Syracuse orthopedic malpractice attorney regarding your potential damages.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant orthopedic surgeon, defendant orthopedic medical group, and defendant hospital. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants inappropriately administered an antibiotic to treat an MRSA infection that the plaintiff developed following arthroscopic knee surgery. The plaintiff subsequently settled her claims against the defendant hospital. The remaining defendants then sought to compel the plaintiff to disclose the terms of the settlement agreement, which were confidential. The plaintiff opposed the motion, stating she was only obligated to disclose the amount of her settlement with the hospital after a verdict had been issued against the remaining defendants.

Discovery of the Terms of a Confidential Settlement Agreement

Upon reviewing the defendants’ motion, the court stated that settlement agreements are favored under New York law, as they allow parties to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation and help to preserve judicial resources. Additionally, the court noted that it benefits society to allow parties to develop their own resolution to a dispute rather than relying on court intervention. The court also explained that in many cases, confidentiality is required to protect the parties involved and to encourage a just resolution.

A non-settling defendant may be able to compel disclosure of a confidential settlement agreement, however, if the terms of the agreement are necessary and material to the defense of the claims asserted. The phrase necessary and material is not meant to speak to a defendant’s wish to obtain the information to use it to its benefit as a form of trial strategy.

In the subject case, the court explained that the settlement agreement the plaintiff entered into with the defendant hospital reduced the plaintiff’s recovery against the remaining defendants proportionate to the jury’s apportionment of fault to the settling defendant, or the amount paid in settlement, whichever was greater. Further, the court stated that the defendants failed to show that they sought disclosure of the terms of the agreement for anything other than trial strategy. Thus, the court found that the defendants were entitled to disclosure of the settlement amount, but only after the trial concluded.

Confer with a Knowledgeable Malpractice Attorney

If you were harmed by a negligent orthopedic surgeon, it is sensible to confer with a knowledgeable Syracuse orthopedic malpractice attorney to discuss what claims you might be able to assert against any of the care providers responsible for your damages. The experienced attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers are skilled at aiding injured parties in the pursuit of compensation, and we will assertively advocate on your behalf. We can be contacted via the form online or at 315-479-9000 to schedule a conference.

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