Unsettled is a special report from the Star Tribune that examines how companies are gaining court approval to purchase payments to help accident victims recover from their injuries. The series was widely reported in 2019, but publication was delayed when the pandemic struck in early 2020. Additional reports were made in 2020 and 2021.
Judges often approve agreements after brief hearings, even if they disagree with the terms or if there are other objections.
Companies mount relentless marketing campaigns aimed at persuading people to sell some of their legal settlements.
In New Mexico, some judges routinely appoint guardians to determine whether a deal makes sense to the seller, resulting in much lower approval rates.
Reporting: Jeffrey Meitrodt, Nicole Norfleet and Adam Belz
Drawing: Brock Kaplan
Photos and videos: Jeff Wheeler, Mark Vancleave and Cheryl Diaz Meyer
Development: Thomas oide
Design: Dave Braunger, Anna Boone, Josh Penrod
Graphic: CJ Sinner
Editing : Eric Wieffering
Copy edition: Lisa Legge and Ginny Greene
Digital engagement: Anna Ta, Ashley Miller and Tom Horgen
ABOUT THE DATA
Claims to purchase settlement payments are common knowledge, and the Star Tribune has reviewed more than 1,700 individual cases filed in Minnesota courts over the past 20 years. We have compiled a database with information on each case, including the company that purchased the payments; financial conditions if available; the district court and the president of the court; whether the case was approved, denied, rejected or pending, and notable details of who asked to sell their settlement.
To measure individual results, we filtered data on approximately 1,200 judge-approved sales. We have summarized these transactions by person, identifying around 800 people who made at least one sale, including the total amount they sold and received. We removed from all their sales people for whom we did not have financial details. That left nearly 700 people for whom we calculated the total percentage of money they received versus what they would have received had they not sold any payments.