Verdicts & Settlements

Lawyer Claims He Had No Authority to Settle Case for $350K; Jurors Planned $9M Verdict

A California trial lawyer claims he didn’t have the authority to settle a case for $350,000 shortly before jurors revealed they had planned to award his brain-injured client $9 million.

Jurors had deliberated only four hours before reaching a verdict in the case of a developmentally disabled man who suffered brain injuries in a fall from an ambulance, the Recorder reports. “Lawyers for both sides could smell what was coming: a defense verdict,” the story says.

A lawyer for the plaintiff, C. Michael Alder, quickly reached a $350,000 settlement. The Jan. 30 deal was not put on the record or in writing, however, before lawyers learned of the planned verdict. At that point, according to an on-the-record statement by Judge Michael Johnson of Los Angeles, “all hell broke loose. Mr. Alder was yelling in the hallway, came into the courtroom and he was yelling in the courtroom. At one point he told me to call the jurors back and take the verdict. It was chaos.”

After a 90-minute recess, Alder told the judge he had accepted the offer without getting a sign-off by his client and he had no authority to settle.

“Now the parties are locked into a bitter post-trial fight that’s casting an unwelcome spotlight on the litigators’ and the judge’s handling of the case,” the story says. “Especially under the gun is Alder, a rising star of Southern California’s plaintiffs bar. In addition to accusing him of lying, defense lawyers argue that by letting the jury go Alder abandoned his case.”

Johnson is scheduled to hear arguments on Wednesday in Alder’s bid for a new trial.

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