Columnist David Lazarus of the San Francisco Chronicle addressed class action settlements in his column last week. In particular, he addresses defendants' refusal to admit to any wrongdoing in the context of class action settlements. I was surprised to read a non-lawyer's take on no-admission-of-liability settlement provisions. He's probably not aware that such provisions are common in all settlement agreements, not just class action settlements. Some of our lawyer brethren did a good job explaning why this is so:
Bill Audet, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in representing consumers in class-action lawsuits, said settlements are like elaborate kabuki performances -- carefully choreographed to convey meaning through action or nuance.
"Any time money gets paid, someone is being held accountable," he said.
Audet said companies are free to "spin their PR machines" after a settlement, but most people understand that a multimillion-dollar payout generally means there was some truth to the charges in the case.
"Most class members would say they'd like to see some accountability," he said, "but the dollar talks."