South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Settlements of Related Matters May Not Be Used As Evidence at Trial
Description Appeals court held that it was improper for a trial court to allow evidence of the amount of a settlement between the plaintiff and a party that had originally been named a defendant to the case in question. Settlement agreements are not to be part of the trial record.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Settlement; Judgment
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts O’Hearn is a professional bodybuilder who earns compensation by product endorsement, personal appearances, and related activities. Hillcrest Gym in San Diego used a promotional brochure that included a photo of O’Hearn taken from a magazine. O’Hearn sued for commercial appropriation and invasion of privacy. The marketing company that prepared the brochure settled with O’Hearn for $29,500 for him to drop them from the action. O’Hearn was awarded $144,000 compensation from Hillcrest at trial, but the $29,500 settlement against the marketing company was deducted, leaving a total of $114,500. Parties appealed.

Affirmed in part; reversed in part. The estimate of damages at trial was proper but the evidence of the settlement with the marketing company was not to be admitted at trial. Similarly, evidence of settlements O’Hearn had received in other instances was irrelevant in this action since the damages depend on the peculiarities of the case. If evidence of settlements is used at trial, it will discourage parties from attempting to settle cases, so O’Hearn is due $144,000.

Citation O’Hearn v. Hillcrest Gym and Fitness Center, 2004 WL 178961 (Ct. App., Calif., 2004)

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