Conventional wisdom often expresses the belief that settling is better
than trial on the merits of a legal dispute. Settlement has its place,
of course. But "settling" a case is always like "settling"
sediment in a water container… a common low level is found, not
a correct or just level. Losing is risky. Settling can bring certainty.
But, both prevent winning. And, most people are in business to win!
Michigan Lawyers Weekly reported in December 2006 that a three-member arbitration
panel in a breach a contract case between two Michigan-based Tier-One
automotive suppliers, one of them over $14 million. The case apparently
could not have settled for a sum near this.
The result may be part of a new trend in disputes between large businesses:
"These are two large tier one corporations and, typically, you don't
have much in the way of litigation between them. It's rare to see
that… [Suppliers generally] try to resolve these issues in a business
format. I don't if this [case] is the wave of the future or if it
was a real aberration." This comment was made by the counsel for
the prevailing party.
The winning party got a benefit from seeing the case through that was at
least as important as the money. As the winner's lawyer said of final
adjudication: "the finding of the arbitrator and the judgment that
was entered vindicated [the client's] position… [and was] gratifying"
to the company.
In business, winning is often called "everything". So, why do
businessmen buy into the idea of settling so easily, when doing so given
"everything" up forever?
Trial isn't for every case. But, settlement isn't either.