Lack of Hearing Transcripts Makes For Insufficient Record To Reverse Good Faith Of Settlement

A building owned by the Jesuit church collapsed during demolition of the building next door. The church’s insurer paid the church’s insurance claim, and they both sued a number of the contractors involved in the demolition. When the church and the insurer settled with most of the defendants, the non-settling defendants contested the good faith of the settlement.

The trial court ruled that the settlement was made in good faith, thus extinguishing the non-settling defendants’ claims for contribution against the settlors. The non-settlors then appealed the good faith finding. A number of hearings on the motion for good faith finding were held in the trial court, but transcripts of those hearings were not a part of the appellate record.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the good faith finding. The appellate ruling was made in part because the non-settlors failed to provide a record sufficient to find an abuse of discretion. Here is the appellate court’s rationale:

… [A] reviewing court’s starting point is the view voiced by the trial court … In the case at bar, we have no idea what view of the trial court voiced because the appellate record is missing numerous transcripts where the trial court may have voiced its view. At least half a dozen hearings took place concerning the good-faith motion prior to the trial court’s ruling … Instead of providing the transcripts in the record, appellants chose to spend several pages of their brief arguing to this court what the missing transcripts might have “possibly” said. This type of speculation has been explicitly forbidden by our supreme court.

So the lesson is: Get a court reporter and include the hearing transcript in the record. Read the whole case, The Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus v. Clark and Dickens, No. 1-07-0960, 1-07-1003 ( 6/9/08), by clicking here.