When Laurie Sanders lost her 6-year-old son Christopher to a malpractice incident at a North Carolina hospital, she refused the hospital’s offer of settlement that would have required her to keep quiet about what happened.
“I didn’t know how everything would end as far as the lawsuit, but I did know that it wouldn’t end in this way. And that would be Christopher’s mommy taking hush money and saying, ‘I won’t talk about what happened to my son,'” Sanders told Raleigh TV station WTVD. “I wanted to make a difference, to try to prevent people from ever experiencing preventable medical errors.”
So Sanders spoke out. And now Steve Daniels, WTVD reporter, is taking up the issue of whether defendants in North Carolina should be legally allowed to demand secrecy when they pay to settle lawsuits out of court, even if that means covering up public health issues that could affect other consumers.
It’s an important issue across the country. “Confidentiality” provisions in settlement agreements have saved defendants a lot of embarrassment over the years, but they have also let repeat offenders continue to harm people under the cloak of secrecy. Witness the Firestone tire failures that came to light many years after product liability suits were settled. Witness also the clergy sex abuse scandal.
At Patrick Malone & Associates, we take a stand against secrecy in settlements, agreeing only to keep the amount of money paid confidential, because that protects our clients.
I have written and lectured to lawyer groups around the country advocating a stand against secret settlements because they often violate the attorneys’ ethics code. Read my article on the ethics of secret settlements here.