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EVIDENCE reversing an intermediate appellate court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on June 2 held that a party’s statements in a settlement agreement were admissible in a subsequent trial. Zucco v. Kane, No. SJC-08947. Catherine Zucco, a nurse, received workers’ compensation benefits after injuring her foot at work. At the request of the workers’ compensation carrier, Zucco underwent a medical exam by Dr. Richard Kane. Zucco sued Kane for medical malpractice, alleging he used excessive force during the examination, causing her to develop reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). A trial court allowed Kane to introduce a redacted copy of Zucco’s settlement agreement with the workers’ compensation carrier to demonstrate that Zucco had claimed she developed RSD from the initial injury. After a jury found for Kane, Zucco appealed, arguing the trial court erred in admitting the settlement agreement. An intermediate appellate court reversed, and Kane appealed. In reversing the appellate court, and holding that the trial court did not err in admitting the redacted settlement agreement, the court acknowledged that “both the acceptance of a settlement offer and the offer itself are inadmissible to prove or disprove a defendant’s liability.” However, the court held the redacted settlement was admissible because Zucco’s admissions in it were not presented to the jury as evidence of Zucco’s willingness to settle her claim. The court said, “As applied to acceptances, however, the rule does not extend beyond the fact of the settlement itself; admissions do not become privileged simply because they happen to be appended to a settlement.”

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