A: In a lawsuit involving a child, the court scrutinizes each settlement. The parents and the attorney are prohibited from sending closing documents to the lawyers who represent the people that have been sued until such time as the court specifically approves a settlement.
Once the lawyers have agreed, in principle, to settling a case involving a child, then the plaintiff's attorney, the attorney who represents the family of the child, must prepare a detailed set of documents explaining to court the reasoning and rationale for why the settlement is in the best interest of the child and family. Often times we are required to get supporting documentation from the child's physicians to explain in detail to the court what the problem was, what treatment the child received and what condition the child is in currently.
Importantly, the court wants to know whether the child will require treatment in the future as a result of whatever was done wrong. Those documents include an affirmation from the plaintiff's attorney explaining the details behind the case and the settlement together with affidavits from the child's parents. All of these documents are commonly known in NY as an “Infant's Compromise Petition.”
If the child is physically capable of coming into court, the Judge wants to see the child together with his or her parents. The Judge wants to talk to the family and find out how the child is doing and learn what's going on in their child's life. This allows the Judge to get a better understanding of whether the documents that have been submitted accurately reflect the parents wishes as well as the child's current medical condition.
There have been instances where a Judge will refuse to sign a compromise order because they feel that the settlement was not appropriate and that the case warranted additional compensation. In that instance, the attorneys must go back to square one and try to renegotiate. If negotiations fail at that time, the parties are left with no choice but to proceed to trial and have the case resolved by a jury.