Undertaking Risk

“You won’t go to court. You just want to settle.”


Recently, I dealt with a plaintiff who was unhappy with the resolution of his FTCA case. He agreed to the settlement but then decided it wasn’t enough. He said we sold him short.


The irony is that his case was weak. Liability was problematic. There were no economic losses and the jurisdiction had a cap on non-economic damages.


Objectively, we netted the client more money than he likely could have gotten even if we had been able to litigate the case successfully - and litigating successfully was a very big if.


All of this was explained in great detail during negotiations.


Our good settlement in this case was in large part a function of our firm’s credibility - including our well-known willingness to “go to court.”


We have a duty to try to get the best outcome we can for our clients. When they can net real money from an administrative settlement, we have to be very careful about suggesting to the client that they gamble on the chance of getting more. Running up $50,000 (or more) in costs, incurring an added fee and then netting much less may be aggressive, but it’s not in the client’s best interest.


And let’s never forget, “going to court” always has a risk of losing outright. Any lawyer who says otherwise is a fool.


Intellectually, I know that unhappy clients go with the territory of being a trial lawyer. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.


Fortunately, most of our clients are appreciative. The occasional unappreciative ones make me like the good ones all the more.