I just read about the Federal Appellate Court Decision deciding that the Winklevoss twins, who famously sued Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg claiming he had “stolen” their idea for Facebook, could not undo their settlement with Zuckerberg and go after him for more money (they settled for only $64 million). The twins alleged in the suit that Zuckerberg defrauded them in the settlement by not disclosing the true value of Facebook. The Appellate Court was having none of it. The Court pointed out that the twins were represented by a lawyer, and they signed a release releasing Zuckerberg forever from any liability to them.
I know what you’re thinking — what does this have to do with New York personal injury law? After all, isn’t that what this blog is about? How the heck is Bersani going to tie the Facebook decision into his Central New York personal injury lawyer blog?
Glad you asked. There’s a lesson in this case for all New York personal injury lawyers, but especially their clients: Very, very carefully consider a settlement before you sign a release. If your signature is on it, it is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to undo it. You can scream all day that you didn’t read it, you didn’t understand it, your lawyer tricked you into signing it, your lawyer gave you bad advice, the other side did not tell you all the facts, etc. But in all but the rarest of instances, you will be stuck with it.
Why such a harsh rule? Simple: courts love finality. As the Court said in the Winklevoss v Zuckerberg case: “At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached.” Lawyers and judges revere a release almost like a holy document. It’s like the “bible” of the case. And it is not Genesis, but Revelations!
Before you sign a release in your New York personal injury or medical malpractice case, read it carefully, and discuss it thoroughly with your lawyer.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.