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Settlements Are Not All or Nothing (NY)

February 18, 2016

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Where multiple parties are involved in litigation, settlement need not be an all or nothing affair - even when more than one plaintiff is involved. In <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Astudillo-v-MV-Transp.-Inc.-2016-NY-Slip-Op-00915.pdf" rel=""><em>Astudillo v MV Transp., Inc.,</em></a> the second department made clear that parties may chart their own course with respect to settlement or trial - regardless of what other parties choose to do.
In <em>Astudillo, </em>two plaintiffs sued multiple defendants for personal injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident. One of the plaintiffs settled with some defendants and withdrew her claims against the remaining defendants. However, the remaining plaintiff chose to proceed to trial against all defendants.  The trial judge of the Supreme Court, Queens County, declined to accept the settlement of just one plaintiff and to allow the one plaintiff to proceed with trial.  The plaintiffs appealed.
The Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the Supreme Court’s decision and remitted the matter back for acceptance of the settlement as to plaintiff Astudillo and for trial as to plaintiff Linares’ claims.
The Court emphasized: "Parties to a civil dispute are free to chart their own litigation course and, in so doing, they may stipulate away statutory, and even constitutional rights”. The Court found that the parties had negotiated the particulars and the litigants had agreed to the terms. Further, the proposed settlement raised no issues regarding law of the case or a conflict of interest.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court was found to have erred in rejecting the parties’ proposed settlement. The Court ruled that the parties had fashioned the basis upon which their particular controversy would be resolved, and the terms of that agreement should have been accepted by the lower court.
Thanks to Lauren Tarangelo for her contribution.
For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at <a href="mailto:dricci@wcmlaw.com">dricci@wcmlaw.com</a>.

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