The Risk Manager, Spring 1996

The Kentucky Supreme Court in Clark v. Burden, 95-SC-572-DG (3/21/96) considered whether a lawyer as agent has the apparent authority to settle a client's case. The court held " The trial court must determine whether appellant gave her attorney express or actual authority to settle the case ... If the court finds that such authority was given, the settlement should be enforced. Even if the trial court finds that no such authority was given, if it should also find that appellees were substantially and adversely affected by their reliance upon the purported settlement, enforcement would be appropriate. On failure to find one or the other of the circumstances... the court should determine that no settlement came into existence." The dissent expresses well the systemic complexities that denial of the lawyer-agent's apparent authority to settle may have. The only sure way to avoid problems under this ruling is to "get it in writing" from the opposing party. This opinion is a must read for all Kentucky lawyers.