This Note addresses the legality and ethics of the secret agreement between Exxon and the Seattle Seven by analogy to a similar type of collusive agreement called a "Mary Carter" agreement. Part I of this Note looks at the terms of the Exxon/Seattle Seven agreements. Part II examines Judge Holland's controversial decision with respect to the Exxon/Seattle Seven agreements. Part III describes the nature of a Mary Carter agreement and the factors used to determine whether such an agreement exists. Then Part IV argues that, like Mary Carter agreements, the Exxon/Seattle Seven agreements undercut the jury system, prolong litigation, contravene legal ethics, and run afoul of public policy. Part IV further argues that, while Judge Holland's ultimate conclusion was correct, he was wrong in stating that had there been no misrepresentation the Exxon/Seattle Seven agreements would have been valid. This Note concludes that secret assignment of punitive damages, being even more egregious than Mary Carter agreements, must be disclosed to the court.
Amy Edwards Wood, In re the Exxon Valdez: The Danger of Deception in a Novel Mary Carter Agreement, 21 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 413 (1997).