DEAR HARRY: My daughter was seriously injured last fall when a carton toppled from a high shelf at one of our wholesale grocery "clubs." Our lawyer negotiated a deal with their insurance company for a seven-figure sum to be paid over five years. However, the insurance company wants a "non-disclosure clause" that will prevent anyone in our family from disclosing any of the settlement terms or amounts.
We are very concerned about a slip of the tongue upsetting everything. This means we'll have to return all the money we got to that date and forfeit any future money.
Our lawyer says that they won't pursue something like a slip-up, but they don't want any big public disclosure. I want them to specify this, but he insists that they won't. Help!
WHAT HARRY SAYS: Non-disclosure clauses are proliferating in all sorts of agreements. They have a virtue for the losers in a suit because they keep everything secret including amounts and admissions of responsibility. They hide company confidential information such as storage capacity and manufacturing defects.
In essence, they are a "cover your tail" agreement that protects the company from looking bad as well as hoping to keep other potential plaintiffs from knowing too much. Plaintiff's lawyers usually dislike them for the very reasons you are raising. In addition, future plaintiffs will never know about the details of your case.
write to him at Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.