A good deed goes unpunished

A good deed goes unpunished

Fox Rothschild LLP
November 18, 2009

Next time someone tells you that "No good deed goes unpunished," tell them to stop being so cynical. That's only true about 99.97% of the time.

For example, an employer offered severance benefits to a terminating employee in exchange for a release of claims. The employee turns down the offer and sues. Can he then use the proposed release agreement as evidence that the employer believed the termination was improper?

Earlier this week, a state court of appeal panel in the Sixth Appellate District (based in San Jose) answered: "No.". A rule of evidence (both state and federal) says that an offer to settle can't be used as evidence of liability. The employee argued that the rule only applied to pre-existing disputes, but the court disagreed.

Good thing. Any holding that gave employers disincentive to offer severance benefits would be bad for employers and employees alike. The case is Mangano v. Verity (pdf).