A vexatious area of law is the faux confidentiality afforded to settlement amounts between settling plaintiffs and settling tortfeasors, as applied to non-settling tortfeasors. The issue is strictly one of timing, not privacy, since non-settling tortfeasors are ultimately entitled to this information to calculate damages awardable against them. Yet in the context where pre-trial disclosure would foster settlement and aid in the non-settling defendant’s preparation of its defense, courts have struggled to consistently and logically determine when disclosure is permissible. At a time when judicial resources are unduly strained, a perfect starting point for clearing courtroom congestion is recognizing that delayed disclosure of settlement amounts in multi-tortfeasor litigations impedes, rather than encourages, settlement between the parties, and frustrates the legislative intent of the controlling statutes in this area.
The Law Governing Disclosure of Settlement Agreements
In multi-tortfeasor litigations, non-settling defendants are made privy to settlement amounts no later than upon a jury verdict in order to calculate damages awardable against them. Disclosure is governed by the interplay of General Obligations Law §15-108(a), CPLR 4533-b, and CPLR 2104.