Reframing “It’s legalized extortion!”
In my mediation practice I must often ask defendants if they could agree to pay something to the plaintiff to make the case go away. Many times in response I would hear “It’s legalized extortion.” “I won’t pay; I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Rather than debating the right-versus-wrong argument, which ends up being an endless loop more often than not, I try to shift the discussion to appeal to the person’s business sense, balancing risk against cost.
Often I will suggest an analogy to insurance premium payments. I suggest that most of us have insurance of one sort or another. We accept a certain deductible amount. We accept a premium payment we can afford. I share that, to afford a $1,000.00/month health insurance premium, for example, I have had to accept a $10,000.00/yr. deductible. But then I add that I have done this to manage the risk against something worse going wrong … and that I have capped my exposure at about $22,000.00/year.
Then I suggest that making a settlement is not giving in to extortion. Rather, it is the sensible result of risk analysis, assuring oneself that the settlement “premium” is just making certain that there’s not a worse result.
Sometimes this works.