Structured Settlement Talk:  It's Oscar Time!

Structured Settlement Talk: It’s Oscar Time!

With the Golden Globes and SAG Awards behind us and Oscar nominations just around the corner, I thought it might be fun to dive into the film vaults to see what roles, if any, Structured Settlements have ever played in the movies.

If you’re a sucker for courtroom dramas like I am, you probably can rattle off a few of the more memorable videos or DVDs you’ve enjoyed over the years. Inherit The Wind, Primal Fear, A Few Good Men, The Firm and others may even be among your favorites.

It should come as no surprise that most films, including these, have nothing to do with Structured Settlements.

But were you aware that one “lawyer flick” featured a scene where a Structured Settlement factored prominently into the plot development?

I know, I know. Leave it to a structured settlement guy to notice something like this.

And while “factored prominently” may be a bit of a stretch, 1998’s A Civil Action starring John Travolta and Robert Duval did indeed feature some Structured Settlement dialog.

Based on a book that’s based on a true story about a lawsuit that developed over alleged contaminated drinking water in Massachusetts, the film contains a scene during which plaintiff attorney Jan Schlichtmann (Travolta) makes his initial demand for damages.

After outlining that the two codefendant corporations collectively netted a profit of more than a half billion dollars the prior year, Schlichtmann submits what he believes to be a comparatively reasonable demand for damages at the informal settlement conference he has arranged for the parties at a swank restaurant:

Schlichtmann: “Twenty-five million dollars cash.”


Defense attorneys collectively raise their eyebrows and exchange a few encouraging nods suggesting they are pleased this demand seems far more reasonable than they were anticipating in light of the exposure.

(NOTE: Keep in mind this film predates the Vioxx Settlement by about a decade when 25 million dollars was still considered a lot of money!)

Schlichtmann: “And another twenty-five million dollars to establish a research foundation to study the links between hazardous waste and illness.”


Defense attorneys, along with Schlichtmann’s own legal team, are taken aback by his audacity. But he continues . . .

Schlichtmann: “And 1.5 million dollars per family annually for 30 years.”

There it is! A structured settlement demand! Who knew Hollywood had it in ’em? Credit author Jonathan Harr for developing such a tuned-in plaintiff attorney to demand a structured settlement because he recognizes that guaranteed annual income best meets his clients’ needs.

As the film continues, settlement talks break off shortly thereafter when one of the defense attorneys tallies the figures to produce a $320 Million demand.

Unfortunately for the settlement process, this uninitiated barrister failed to take the time to contact a Certified Structured Settlement Consultant (such as yours truly) who could have readily pointed out that the demand wasn’t as “outrageous” as he had surmised. But by failing to take present value into consideration, the settlement talks prematurely and abruptly conclude with defense counsel Jerome Facher (Duval) sneaking a dinner roll into his pocket for the road.

SIDEBAR: In addition to garnering Duval an “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role” SAG Award, A Civil Action earned Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Duval) and Best Cinematography among other awards.

I won’t spoil the rest of the movie for you if you haven’t seen it but A Civil Action is certainly worth a look-see if you’re a movie buff and missed this one the first time around.

In fact, if you haven’t seen it but would like to check it out, drop me a line and I’ll even send you a complimentary BLOCKBUSTER $5.00 gift card you can use for the purpose. No strings attached! (Limited to the first 25 respondents) Consider this my contribution to the education of the masses on the topic of structured settlements through film. Enjoy!  (August, 2014 Update: Blockbuster who? Sorry. Gift cards no longer offered)

So, here’s hoping 2010 is shaping up to be a BLOCKBUSTER year for you in more ways than one! Wishing you continued success in the year ahead, I hope you win your Oscar pool.


Finn Financial Group