George Allen Smith IV disappeared on July 5, 2005 during a honeymoon cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. The FBI has not found the body, and no one has been charged with any crime related to the vanishing of Mr. Smith. Read the story here.
Apparently, litigation has been ongoing in this matter, racking up $110,000 in legal fees. Presumably, the estate of Mr. Smith (Mr. Smith’s surviving heirs) sued the cruise line for damages related to the Mr. Smith’s disappearance.
This is an incredibly tragic story, and one can only imagine what happened to Mr. Smith. We may never know for certain. However, Royal Caribbean Cruises has agreed to settle with the plaintiffs in the amount of over $1,000,000, plus attorney’s fees. When parties of a lawsuit agree to settle, the case is dismissed, and no further litigation regarding liability for damages is sought.
A settlement however, typically does not include an admission of liability for the damages, despite what the public perception of settlements may be. Sometimes, a party may agree to settle for a certain amount of money because continuing to pursue a lawsuit (or in this case, defend against a lawsuit) may end up costing more than it would to settle.
In other words, it may have been more cost effective for Royal Carribbean to settle than to continue defending itself in litigation.
Additional considerations include public perception; a settlement may have a certain stigma attached to it, but scrutiny for a short amount of time may be preferable to a closer level of scrutiny during the duration of a long trial.
As much as the fate of Mr. Smith is a mystery, the basis of Royal Carribbean’s decision to settle is also a mystery.