What is a Friendly Suit and why is the court appointing a Guardian to represent my child?
In Rhode Island when a minor, child under 18 or someone with diminished capacity, recovers a personal injury settlement over $10,000.00, the court must approve of the settlement. This is known as a “Friendly Suit”. It is to protect the child’s interests to make sure the funds are sufficient to cover their injuries and future pain and suffering, in addition to verifying the funds are solely for the minor’s use and benefit.
A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) approved by the court will be appointed to the minor’s case. The GAL is a neutral third party who represents the minor’s interests solely. The GAL will recommend the settlement to the court as long as it is in the best interest of the minor. The GAL and your Rob Levine attorney will meet with both parents or guardians along with the minor prior to a court hearing to prepare a report.
The report for the court outlines what injuries the minor sustained, the treatment the minor underwent, any permanent injuries or scarring, and the settlement amount. Moreover, the report will provide details on the minor, where they go to school, what activities they enjoy, and what they will use the funds for if they are old enough.
The GAL will recommend that the settlement funds be put into either a structured settlement or a savings account depending on the age of the child and the amount of funds. If the minor is young, the money will be put into a structured settlement where it will accrue interest and be paid out after the minor turns 18 years old. If the minor is older, the funds will likely be put into a savings account to be used only for the minor’s benefit.
Once the report is prepared, a hearing will be set up to have a judge review the GAL’s report and discuss the settlement with the minor and the parents/guardians. The judge will approve of the settlement and the funds will be released. The process takes a few months and many of the hearings are now remote due to COVID. If the settlement is under $10,000.00 a “Friendly Suit” is not mandatory as long as both parents or guardians give consent to settle the case.