The Supreme Court of Virginia has ordered that documents in four wrongful death cases settled by mediation be unsealed. In the Spotsylvania County Circuit Court case, Perreault, Adm’x v. The Free Lance-Star, the parties had sought to keep the terms of wrongful death settlements a secret.
The cases involve allegedly tainted heart medicine blamed for six deaths and four injuries. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star pressed to have the dollar amounts of the settlements made public. Circuit Judge Ann Hunter Simpson agreed the settlements should be public, but delayed disclosure pending appeal.
In a unanimous opinion by Justice Lawrence L. Koontz Jr., the Supreme Court upheld Simpson’s decision and ordered the records unsealed.
“Common sense” dictates that the money is “the most significant” of the terms of any settlement presented for court approval under Virginia’s wrongful death statute, according to the court.
By Deborah Elkins