Legal ethics

Bending the Truth in Mediation and Settlement Negotiations

Lawyers involved in civil litigation invariably have to deal with settlement negotiations of some kind, often under the aegis of court ordered mediation.

Negotiations involve a great deal of back-and-forth posturing about the claims in the case. 

How far can an attorney go in bending the truth – can he exaggerate, make false statements, or conceal important information?  And if he or she does, what exposure does he or she have?

A recent New York federal court decision, Otto v. Hearst Communications, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35051 (S.D.N.Y. 2019), denied a motion for sanctions against an attorney who supposedly misrepresented certain facts in a settlement conference, although the Magistrate Judge opined that the case was a “close call,” and cautioned the attorney from overstepping in the future.