by John Darer® CLU ChFC MSSC RSP CLTC
The Grillo case has been widely used as a "scare tactic" to motivate attorneys to structure by plaintiff settlement advisers
After a quarter of a century perhaps it is time to "scour" the internet of creative liberties concerning the case of Grillo v Pettiete, the poster child for attorney malpractice with respect to structured settlements and settlement planning. Sometimes a story gets told incorrectly and the "urban legend" gets passed from generation to generation. In this case it is happening in the structured settlement industry every day.
The Court transcript from the minor's prove up hearing does not appear to jive with the marketing
I have read a copy of the transcript and it did not appear to go down the way a generation of settlement planners has spinned it, and continues to spin it to sell more annuities or even special needs legal services.
In my June 15, 2011 blog post, I did an extensive analysis about the Grillo v Pettiete case, a legal case which has spawned white papers, Lawyers' Weekly articles and even waivers that plaintiff lawyers should have their clients sign, that are named after Ms. Grillo. The only thing missing is I _________ in the Grillo case "and all I got was this lousy t-shirt".
Consider these points:
1. Was Christina Grillo offered a structured settlement or not? Yes, she was, by the hospital.
When asked January 3, 1991, in the minor prove up hearing in the seminal case, Christina Grillo's Mom, Josephine Grillo was asked " your concern was that with an annuity paying you monthly that you would not have sufficient funds in the event of catastrophic health or --health problem, is that correct" (Josephine Grillo responded "That or a new technology, yes")
2. Evident by her testimony, the transcript of which I have seen, Ms. Grillo had concerns about annuities because of a big "what if?", access to funds in the event of a catastrophic medical need. Her testimony also suggested that whoever she relied on for advice suggested an alternative strategy to a structured settlement, on the premise that Christina Juniker (Grillo)'s medical expenses would provide an offset against the taxable income generated in the trust.
3. Don't get me wrong here. I am obviously in favor of structured settlements however, those participating in the structured settlement industry can surely stop making intentional or unintentional misprepresentations of what happened in the Grillo case to sell products or services.
It seems to me that it would behoove the structured settlement industry to place the Grillo case in context going forward and furthermore, to dig up another more current legal malpractice case, (if such a case exists) as one of the many factors to highlight the importance of having a settlement advisor.
By the way, if you really want the lousy t shirt you can get it at ErasersTees!
Henry Stong of JMW Settlements tackled the Grillo subject in a white paper " The Real Lessons of Grillo" in the summer 2004 edition of the Journal of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and tied it into a discussion of fiduciary responsibility. Strong, a former President of the NSSTA, notably observed in his paper that the plaintiff attorneys did discuss structured settlements with Josephine Grillo. His source is an 8/2/2001 Lawyers Weekly article. My source is the court transcript from the Grillo prove up hearing.