Settlement planning is even more complex when it comes to international cases. As with any catastrophe, no one ever expects it to happen in the first place, so the rug is already out from under them. The litigation that follows is often the victim’s or family’s first experience as a plaintiff. Then, the settlement might be the biggest sum of money they have ever received, which could leave them in the dark about how to get the most out of it. These factors, coupled with the unique challenges of international cases, are why we do what we do. Our settlement planning experts create a long-term plan, while addressing any nuances that clients face.
One of the strongest tools in our toolbox is the qualified settlement fund. A qualified settlement fund (“QSF”) is an account that holds settlement proceeds as litigation concludes. It allows for more simplified and organized administration of the settlement by extending the amount of time available to plan past the release of the defendants from the litigation.
It’s worth exploring whether cases involving the Boeing 737 MAX crashes might benefit from a QSF. Last month, Boeing settled the first claims stemming from the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX in Indonesia, and three other sources said that families of those killed will receive at least $1.2 million apiece. As a reminder, one Boeing 737 crashed in Indonesia in November 2018, while another crashed in Ethiopia in March of 2019. While the money may bring some comfort to those affected by the crashes, it may come with unforeseen challenges for the families who receive it.
A QSF is helpful as attorneys wade through the myriad of decisions involved in the disbursement of funds. A recent example is the Depakote litigation involving hundreds of lawsuits against the manufacturer for its failure to warn of severe fetal risk. The Milestone team worked with many of the families involved in a settlement planning capacity, helping ensure mothers and children are taken care of once litigation ends. Many of the settlement plans we have helped establish have been for small annuities for minors (to begin when they’re 18 or older) or small trusts to pay for ongoing and future education and/or medical needs.
We also helped address concerns when working in Tanzania in the summer of 2017, where we consulted with victims of the U.S. Embassy bombing who were receiving settlement funds. Having the extra time to meet with families directly, and work with local translators, authorities and leaders, our team was able to successfully prepare Tanzanian families for their incoming funds and any concerns that might come with it.
There are significant advantages for foreign citizens who are recovering in American-based lawsuits or terrorism cases when their attorneys elect to establish a QSF. They have the extra time to explore international tax planning, mitigating their currency risk by looking at global investment options (which may be advantageous given their country of domicile tax regimens), and considering trusts, structured settlements, and other potentially helpful planning tools.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).