Friday, December 4, 2015

Request to Seal Settlement is Denied

            In Guardino v. Graco Children's Products Inc. (42325/2010, NYLJ 1202743778988, decided November 24, 2015), an action resulting from the death of an infant due to a defective baby stroller (alleging claims for wrongful death, strict products liability and breach of warranty), the Suffolk County Supreme Court denied a party's request to seal a settlement pursuant to the terms of a settlement agreement between the parties.  Particularly, the plaintiff's counsel states in his request that "[t]his settlement agreement contains a material provision that requires the parties to keep the terms of the settlement confidential, with only limited exceptions," and that "[t]he Court should grant Plaintiffs' petition because not doing so would run counter to the well-recognized, strong public policy interests in allowing litigants to reach confidential settlements."

            The Court, however, disagreed with the above contentions, denying the request, and stating the following: "Initially, the Court must note that contrary to Plaintiffs' counsel's eloquent declaration that public policy favors confidential settlements, there is actually a well settled body of law that holds the public interest is better served by promoting open access to the Court, its proceedings and records...This embrace of 'open Courts' is born of America's historical antipathy to any judicial proceeding that brings remembrance of that opprobrious body from the past, repudiated by revolutions and constitutions, of whom the mere mention of its name fills the Court with dread-the secret tribunal that consigned its victims to grim fates without the pretense of legal protection, the feared and hated Star Chamber...Its existence will always be a stain on the annals of a justice system, that, for the most part, has been the light of the World."

            The Court further holds as follows: "Applying the forgoing principles to the instant case the Court finds that there is a strong public interest in a lawsuit involving the death of a child allegedly caused by a defective baby stroller. The parties interest in keeping the details of their settlement confidential do not constitute good cause to the extent that it outweighs this public interest. Therefore, under the circumstances presented, the motion must be denied."

Salvatore R. Marino, Esq.