Friday, January 19, 2018

Paperwork filed publicly to conclude a lawsuit

There have been articles in our trusty local newspaper over the last few months (such as this one) referring to lawsuits being "dismissed" and each party paying its own court costs.  In the case of this specific dispute, the lawsuit was ended by the filing of a Consent Order.

There are two common ways to end a lawsuit by agreement.  One of them is to file a court order (called a Consent Order or, sometimes, a Consent Dismissal Order) which typically includes terms to the effect that the lawsuit is dismissed as if it had been tried on the merits, and that each party agrees to pay its own court costs.  However, that does not mean that no money changed hands between the parties "behind the scenes," including either or both of damages and court costs.  There may be many other terms in the settlement or conclusion of a lawsuit, such as one or more parties signing a Release or that they agree to keep the settlement or conclusion confidential.

A filed Consent Order can be viewed by any member of the public (unless the court file is sealed for privacy reasons, such as in family law cases) simply by attending Court Registry during normal business hours and asking to review the court file, or by searching the court file online through Court Services Online (in either case, upon payment of a modest search fee -- the government always gets its slice).  By drafting such a Consent Order in terms similar to those used in this specific case, it allows the parties to end the lawsuit without revealing the details of that settlement or conclusion.

When reading similar future news articles, the only conclusion to be drawn safely is that the lawsuit is over.  What happened behind the scenes to get to that point remains unknown.