Our language around settlements connotes war and peace – in settling we are “buying our peace” or “ceasing hostilities.” The old saw is that a good settlement leaves no one satisfied, but in truth, a good settlement leaves nothing significant left to do in the dispute. In abandoning claims or defenses, we seek a measure of closure. And in obtaining a durable settlement our client can live with, we necessarily rely, to some extent, on the regularity of the underlying proceedings, candor to the court, and some minimal level of good faith in the negotiations.
What happens when that reliance is upended and those expectations are dashed? A recent unpublished California decision provides a cautionary tale. It also stirred memories of a flawed settlement from three decades ago, inspiring this reverie.