There was an extraordinary decision late last week out of the Second Department that I was getting ready to blog, but John Hochfelder beat me to the punch.
Short version: At a Brooklyn medical malpractice trial the defendant, at some point, offered 150K to settle. Then, while the jury was deliberating, the plaintiff tried to accept. But a note had been passed to the clerk that the jury had reached a verdict.
Did the judge quickly confirm an agreement between the parties and put the settlement on the record? Nope. She did the opposite. And not only did the judge insist on the verdict being taken, but defense counsel remained silent, perhaps smelling a defense verdict after a short deliberation.
This exchange ensued in open court between plaintiff’s counsel and the judge:
Mr. Jordan: Could I put my request on the record?
The Court: Once I have a verdict, I take the verdict, and then the parties are free to do what they agreed to. An agreement is an agreement, counsel.
Mr. Jordan: Why can’t we put the agreement to settle the case for $150,000 on the record?
The Court: Because I said what I have to say. Let’s proceed
The jury came back with a $1.45M verdict. The judge then proceeds to toss out the verdict and asserts that the settlement — the one defense counsel refused to confirm and she refused to put on the record — controlled.
What do you think the appellate court did?