Perceptions of Settlement

54 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2021 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021

See all articles by Jessica Bregant

Jessica Bregant

University of Houston Law Center

Jennifer K. Robbennolt

University of Illinois College of Law

Verity Winship

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: June 16, 2021

Abstract

Most legal disputes end in settlement, but little is known about how people perceive settlement. Do people view settling defendants as responsible for the alleged conduct? Do they see settlement more neutrally, as a convenient resolution that avoids a costly trial? This article uses survey and experimental methods to begin answering these questions and to set the agenda for studying an important and mostly neglected area of inquiry: public perceptions of settlement. Survey participants report in their own words their inferences about parties’ reasons for settling legal disputes in a variety of contexts: #MeToo, policing, crime, regulatory enforcement, and tort. Participants’ rich responses informed an experimental study of the tort setting that compares perceptions of settlement with perceptions of other case outcomes such as a jury verdict or the filing of a legal case. Despite common models of settlement as a cost-benefit analysis not necessarily tied to responsibility, the data suggest that lay people attribute responsibility to settling defendants. The data also highlight factors that influence people’s inferences about settling defendants, including whether the defendant is an individual or entity. Understanding settlement is key to understanding the U.S. legal system, and this empirical work on perceptions of settlement lays a foundation for analyzing the perceived legitimacy of a legal system in which settlement plays such a central role.

Suggested Citation

Bregant, Jessica and Robbennolt, Jennifer K. and Winship, Verity, Perceptions of Settlement (June 16, 2021). Forthcoming, Harvard Negotiation Law Review, University of Illinois College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 21-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3868526

Jessica Bregant

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

Jennifer K. Robbennolt (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-333-6623 (Phone)

Verity Winship

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-244-8161 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.illinois.edu/faculty-research/faculty-profiles/verity-winship/

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