U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has agreed to settle fraud lawsuits relating to his Trump University series of real estate seminars for $25 million, New York's attorney general said on Friday. Lawyers for the president-elect have been arguing against students who claim they were they were lured by false promises into paying up to $35,000 to learn Trump's real estate investing "secrets" from his "hand-picked" instructors.
There are three lawsuits relating to Trump University: two class actions lawsuits in California and a case brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. All of the cases will be covered in the settlement. "Today's $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university," Schneiderman said in a statement.
Despite widespread misreporting, settling a lawsuit does not necessarily imply liability or guilt on the part of the defendant/respondent. While it may suggest that the defendant/respondent lacks strong evidence to defend himself against the charges that he faces, let us not forget that it is also simply common practice to settle out of court. In fact, the vast majority of cases never make it to trial. According to the most recently-available statistics, about 95 percent of pending lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement.
For the uninitiated, there are an array of benefits to the settlement of a legal dispute or lawsuit. New York-based attorney, Shulamit Shvartsman, notes a few, which include:
(1) Expense. Trials involve attorneys, expert witnesses, extensive depositions during the discovery process, travel, and time. If a case settles before going to trial, many of these expenses can be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether;
(2) Stress. Settlement may reduce some of the stress that a trial can bring on. Besides the anticipation of the unknown result to come, both sides of a lawsuit might fear getting on the witness stand and telling their story to a judge and jury, then being subject to cross-examination by the other side's attorney;
(3) Privacy. Details of a civil case can be kept private when settled. When you take a case to trial, the court documents become a public record, and anyone can look at them, unless the judge orders the records sealed. When you settle a case, most of the details are kept out of the court documents, and aren't a public record. Many settlement agreements also incorporate a confidentiality clause;
(4) Predictability. Any trial lawyer will tell you that a jury's decision isn't the easiest thing in the world to predict. By contrast, you can dictate the terms of your settlement agreement, or at least work with the other side to come up with a deal you can both live with; and
(5) Finality. The losing party can appeal a court judgment, dragging out the process even longer. Settlements cannot usually be appealed.