Settlement with Multiple Plaintiffs: The Role of Insolvency
Posted: 7 Jun 2002
This paper considers settlement negotiations between one defendant and two plaintiffs when the defendant's assets are limited. Bargaining externalities exist: the acceptance of a settlement offer by one plaintiff may either increase or decrease the other plaintiff's expected payoff at trial. Negotiations fail when the two plaintiffs bargain independently of one another and their payoffs at trial are sufficiently correlated. Collective bargaining, where the plaintiffs accept offers that are in their mutual interest, leads to higher private and social welfare. For intermediate degrees of correlation, collective bargaining shifts bargaining surplus from the plaintiffs to the defendant. For low degrees of correlation, collective bargaining shifts surplus from the defendant to the plaintiffs. (Risk dominance is used to refine the set of equilibria in this last case.) The desirability of plaintiff opt-outs, limited-fund class actions under Rule 23(b)(1)(B), and Chapter 11 bankruptcy law are discussed.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation