State Bar of Michigan
home member area contact us


 print this page

for members
SBM general information

member directory

admissions, ethics, and

diversity & inclusion

justice initiatives

member services

practice management
   resource center

public policy resource

publications and

research and links

sections & committees

ethics for members
ethics developments
ethics opinions
TAON (trust accounts)

from the courts
opinion searching
virtual court

for the public
public resources
media resources

giving opportunities
a lawyer helps
access to justice

Ethics Opinion

print this page


March 33, 1982


    A lawyer may not settle a client's action without specific authority from the client.


As plaintiff's lawyer a mediation award has been secured in favor of plaintiff but that the client cannot be located. Can a lawyer ethically settle the matter in the client's absence. The opposition has offered to settle the matter for the amount of the mediation award, that the mediation award is not binding and that the client has not agreed to accept whatever amount the award may be.

CI-309 states:

    "The right to make decisions which affect the merits of a cause or may substantially affect the rights of a client rests solely with a client, unless the client is mentally or physically disabled so as to be incapable from making a considered judgment, it is unethical for a lawyer to make such decisions."

The committee opined in CI-558 that an action may not be settled on behalf of multiple plaintiffs without the consent of each and every plaintiff. While that opinion concerned multiple plaintiffs, the principle upon which it rests is directly applicable, that is, that a cause may not be settled without the express consent of the client.

Michigan courts have determined as a matter of law that a lawyer has no general power to compromise the client's action. See Hartman v. Frontier City, Inc. 20 Mich App 274 (1969).

It, therefore, appears clear as a matter of ethics that a lawyer may not settle a client's case absent the client's express consent. However, the lawyer should make reasonable efforts to locate the client. If the lawyer is able to locate the client the lawyer can determine whether the settlement should be accepted. If the lawyer is unable after reasonable effort to locate the client, and trial of the cause without the client's presence is not feasible, it would seem it would be proper for the lawyer to seek withdrawal under DR 2-110(C)(d).



follow us
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on LinkedIn Follow Us on Twitter Follow the SBM Blog


©Copyright 2015

website links
Contact Us
Site Map
Website Privacy Statement PDF
Staff Links

SBM on the Mapcontact information
State Bar of Michigan
306 Townsend St
Lansing, MI 48933-2012
Phone: (517) 346-6300
Toll Free: (800) 968-1442
Fax: (517) 482-6248