The Plot Thickens

 

P, a passenger in O's car, sues D for injuries resulting when O's car collided with D's car. P seeks to introduce evidence of a settlement reached between D and Q, another passenger in O's car. D objects. What ruling and why? What other information might be useful in making this ruling?

 

Does Rule 408 also exclude evidence of completed compromises? Why?

Doesn't the relevance of this evidence depend on the amounts at issue in the two suits, particularly the amount at issue in the earlier Q v. D lawsuit and the amount of the settlement between Q and D? For example, if Q's lawsuit against D sought $100 damages, and P seeks $1,000,000 damages, and D settled with Q for $50, the Q-D settlement would not be very probative to prove liability of D to P. In this situation, the most likely explanation for D's settlement with Q would be his desire to buy peace in the more insignificant cases so that he can focus his attention on defending the larger suit by P. However, if the situation were reversed, that is, D had settled with Q for hundreds of thousands of dollars and P sought to introduce that evidence in his lawsuit against D for a few hundred dollars, the D-Q settlement would be more probative.

Exclusion of completed settlements, when offered against the party to the settlement, rests more firmly on the ground of promotion of the public policy favoring the compromise and settlement of disputes than it does on notions of relevancy.



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