Verdicts & Settlements

Court Bars Secret High-Low Deals

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New York’s highest court has ordered a new trial for an asbestos defendant because it was not told that a co-defendant had reached a high-low agreement with the plaintiff.

The New York Court of Appeals said all parties in multiple defendant cases should be notified of such agreements, the New York Law Journal reports. Garlock Sealing Technologies will get a new trial as a result.

The agreement, reached two weeks before the 2005 trial, had guaranteed the plaintiff a minimum of $185,000 and capped any jury award at $185,000. The jury awarded $3.75 million to the plaintiff and held Garlock responsible for 60 percent of the amount. The award was later reduced to $2.7 million.

Garlock might have picked different jurors or used different strategies if it had known of the agreement, the court said.

“To ensure that all parties to a litigation are treated fairly, we hold that whenever a plaintiff and a defendant enter into a high-low agreement in a multi-defendant action which required the agreeing defendant to remain a party to the litigation, the parties must disclose the existence of that agreement and its terms to the court and the non-agreeing defendant(s),” the opinion (PDF) said.

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