I recently settled a case by talking about baseball. Yes, baseball. Baseball had nothing to do with the underlying lawsuit. But, it became a necessary component to settling the matter.
We were in the final stages of negotiating a settlement. The plaintiff was entirely done. He complained of a headache and wanted to leave right after he made his best and final offer. I felt that plaintiff’s final offer was reasonable and should be accepted by defendant, a large fortune 500 company. Counsel for defendant sought authority from his client and asked me to buy him some time.
I was struck with a problem. How can I get someone who was desperate to leave to stay longer? It turned out that the answer was baseball. Plaintiff’s daughter played NCAA Division I softball. My son is an aspiring baseball player. That sparked a two-hour conversation about all things baseball.
After the first hour, defendant’s counsel advised that he did not have the authority to settle on defendant’s terms. He asked me to stall further while he went up the line of command to seek the additional authority he needed to settle the case. To my amazement, when I went back to plaintiff to let him know that defendant needed more time he was not upset at all. His headache was gone and all he wanted to do was continue to talk about baseball.
Unfortunately, after an addition hour had passed, defendant’s counsel still did not have the authority to settle on plaintiff’s terms. The best he could do was offer approximately 20% less than what plaintiff was seeking. He began packing up to leave while I delivered what I thought was the unwelcome news to plaintiff.
Even at less than what he was originally willing to accept, I believed that defendant’s reduced settlement offer was still deserving of being considered. There was a real chance that plaintiff would recover nothing if the case went to trial. Accordingly, I recommended that plaintiff accept defendant’s offer even though it was less than what plaintiff was hoping to receive. After two hours of talking baseball, plaintiff was comfortable enough with me to go along with my recommendation and we settled the case.
Lesson learned: When all else fails you can always talk about baseball or anything else to get the parties focused on the goal of settlement