Thursday, October 18, 2012

No Apology in Court

Recently, a civil lawsuit in Connecticut courts against a Catholic Diocese as a result of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest was settled for $1.1M.  The plaintiff was understandably upset at the demeanor of the former Bishop who attended the court proceedings on behalf of the diocese:

“Through this whole process he’s been sitting there laughing and I just couldn’t understand that,” Maynard later said. “He never apologized.”

What should a litigant reasonably expect to get from the courts?  There is a recurring theme in legal movies (i.e. The Rainmaker, A Civil Action, Erin Brockovich, etc) of plaintiffs who sue in court hoping to get something that the system does not provide.  Plaintiffs, victims of tragic loses, are often looking for answers, or an explanation, or validation for their grief, or a chance to confront a wrongdoer, and, sometimes most importantly, an apology. The legal system provides ... money.  Or, more aptly, a chance at money. The reality is that it is rarely in the financial or emotional best interest of most plaintiffs to proceed to trial when a settlement can be obtained. Yet, the unrealistic expectations of plaintiffs often leads to dissatisfaction at the final conclusion of a case.  I find that students often come to a Legal Environment course with a belief that going to trial is the best way to obtain "justice." Yet they are disappointed to learn that all a successful plaintiff gets is money.

This lawyer explains the damage claims that a plaintiff can make. The list does not include an apology - or justice.

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