In a variety of cases that end in settlement, the parties often agree to make the settlement agreement confidential. When the parties agree separately that the terms of the settlement remain confidential, it’s a different story than the one in which the court is required or asked to seal the settlement agreement.
In the case of Goesel v. Boley International, there were two court-sealed settlement agreements that were the subject of an appeal to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. The appeal asked to keep the settlement agreements sealed. Judge Richard A. Posner ruled that a confidential agreement between the parties was an insufficient basis for the settlement documents to be sealed.
The Goesel case was a personal-injury lawsuit brought on behalf of a minor. Because of the status of the plaintiff, that being a minor, the plaintiff was required to obtain a district judge’s approval of the settlement. The trial judge reduced a portion of the settlement proceeds that were payable to the plaintiff’s law firm for attorney fees and costs and approved the settlement as then revised. The appeal in this case is by the law firm that challenged the judge’s modification of the settlement terms, which included attorney fees.