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Settlement Involving Public Funds Discloseable Absent Contractual Confidentiality or Statutorily Protected Provisions

An anonymous Pennsylvania husband (plaintiff) filed a motion to seal his petition for settlement approval resulting from a malpractice suit following his wife's death. The court denied his motion because the information was made public upon the initial complaint and the proceeds involved public funds.

The plaintiff brought suit against gynecologist Jung Hwan and family doctor Dennis Kondash alleging failure to diagnose his wife's ovarian cancer from 1996 to 1999, which resulted in her death. He agreed to settle prior to trial with the settlement terms providing for nondisclosure. He petitioned the court to accept the settlement and grant the motion to seal the petition. Hwan maintained that the settlement required sealing to protect privacy interests and to not discourage future settlements.

The court acknowledged the plaintiff's contractual fulfillment by filing the motion for sealing the petition, and held that since the proceeds were generated from public funds the petition was "public record." The court further held that the parties had failed to show good cause for confidentiality, and that in the future parties could privately exercise such confidentiality provisions in a separate contractual agreement. See: Karczakowski v. Hwan, 68 Pa.D. & C.4th 129 (2004).

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Related legal case

Karczakowski v. Hwan