When two parties enter into an out-of-court settlement, a contract is created by the two parties. This contract is typically a legally binding document that requires each party to do—or not do—certain things. For example, the most basic contract could be boiled down to something like the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff a certain sum of money, and the plaintiff agrees to withdraw his or her lawsuit against the defendant and waive any future claims arising from that incident.
However, according to a recent report by the Baltimore Sun, all police brutality cases settled in the city come with one fairly uncommon term in the contract: a confidentiality clause.
A confidentiality clause restricts the plaintiff from disclosing what happened with the reporters. This includes a prohibition against sharing any of the details of the settlement itself with the public, but the restriction goes further. Under Baltimore’s confidentiality clause, a plaintiff who accepts a settlement may not even discuss any of the facts or allegations of the underlying suit, essentially shielding government operations from the public eye.
This type of clause has been rejected in most major metropolitan cities, in favor of government transparency.
What Happens if the Plaintiff Speaks Out?
If the plaintiff disregards the confidentiality clause and shares details of the event with the news media, the City of Baltimore is entitled to get back some of its settlement money. In one recent case, a woman who posted online comments about her police brutality lawsuit was forced to forfeit $31,500—roughly half¬—of the settlement she received from the City.
Police Brutality Suits against the City of Baltimore
Since 2011, there have been over 100 policy brutality suits against the City of Baltimore that have resulted in some kind of out-of-court settlement. The total dollar amount of these suits exceeds $5.7 million.
Reconsidering the Policy
The City Solicitor told reporters that the inclusion of the confidentiality clause is not meant to shield questionable police activity from the public. Instead, he claims, it is meant to prevent plaintiffs from sharing information that would not even be admissible at trial and to avoid a back-and-forth over hotly contested facts in the case.
He has, however, commissioned a study to determine if the policy is a “best practice,” and if it is not he has vowed to reconsider the policy in favor of a more open one.
Have You Been the Victim of Police Brutality?
If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of police brutality, you may be entitled to monetary damages based on the police officer’s reckless, negligent, or intentional conduct. City governments often prefer to settle these types of claims rather than have them go through what is likely going to be a very public trial. However, before a city will settle, the plaintiff must put together a solid case. To learn more about how you may be entitled to monetary compensation for what you have been through, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a Maryland personal injury attorney today.
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Change of Venue Ordered in Medical Malpractice Case; Impartial Jury Concerns Cited, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 1, 2014.