Hinshaw Winkler v. Superior Court – Case Brief Summary (California)

In Hinshaw Winkler v. Superior Court (1996) 51 Cal.App.4th 233, a malpractice action was brought against attorneys, alleging the attorneys dropped the plaintiffs from an underlying class action against a medical provider, before the case settled. The plaintiffs sought discovery of the confidential settlement in the class action.

The trial court denied the attorneys' motion for a protective order.

The Court of Appeal recognized the privacy rights of the class members who settled their action and placed the burden on the party seeking discovery to "show a compelling and opposing state interest." (Id. at p. 239; see also id. at p. 241 "a private settlement agreement is entitled to at least as much privacy protection as a bank account or tax information".)

Essential to the court's reasoning was "the public policy favoring settlements, the parties' expressed desire for confidentiality, and the speculative nature of measuring plaintiffs' damages by these settlements." (Id. at p. 242.)