ILNews

Federal Bar Update: Client representative at settlement conferences

John Maley
September 29, 2010
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In the Southern District of Indiana, settlement conferences are routinely held in most civil cases before the assigned magistrate judge. These conferences are authorized pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 16 and S.D. Ind. Local Rule 16.1(c). Each magistrate judge issues a standard order (with some modest variations) setting the settlement conference, and which requires the presence of a client representative, or if an insurer is named or contractually required to defend or indemnify, the presence of a fully authorized representative of the insurer. Further, Local Rule 16.1(c) requires counsel to confer prior to all court conferences to prepare for the conference.

In Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Yamaha Motor Corp., No. 2:09-CV-191 (Aug. 25, 2010), these issues came into play when plaintiff and its representative appeared for a scheduled settlement conference, but defense counsel appeared without a client representative and without advance notice of no representative attending. Defense counsel did not attempt to notify plaintiff counsel until the morning of the conference that no defense representative would attend with him, and by that time both plaintiff counsel were en route to the settlement conference.

The matter was not settled at the conference, but the parties did settle the matter within several weeks thereafter. Plaintiff’s counsel moved for sanctions for travel costs of $200.20 and for the client representative’s time spent at the conference of $800.

Magistrate Judge Hussmann granted in part the motion and sanctioned defendant Yamaha $200.20 to compensate plaintiff’s client representative for travel costs incurred in attending a settlement conference with plaintiff’s counsel. Judge Hussmann denied the $800 for time spent at the conference, reasoning that “the case was ultimately resolved shortly after the settlement conference” such that the representative’s “time was not wasted.”

Judge Hussmann concluded his for-publication order, writing: “The practice of attending settlement conferences without an appropriate client is explicitly discouraged from this point forward. If a particularly difficult logistical problem arises with the client’s attendance, counsel must, pursuant to Local Rule 16.1, seek permission from opposing counsel. If opposing counsel does not agree, a motion seeking permission should be filed sufficiently in advance of the conference to allow opposing counsel to file an objection.”

Mark your calendars – The annual Federal Civil Practice Update seminar will be Dec. 17 from 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. Registration information will be available in October at www.theindianalawyer.com.•

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John Maley (jmaley@btlaw.com) is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg, concentrating on federal and state litigation. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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