If you were to ask three Tennessee personal injury lawyers to explain when court approval is required for a minor’s settlement, chances are you would get three very different responses. That is because this is an area of law in which many have relied on custom instead of the statute passed by the General Assembly. If you look to the statute, the answer to this question is fairly clear. Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-34-105(a) provides that every minor’s settlement, regardless of size, must have court approval.
The statute states as follows:
- Notwithstanding any other law or rule to the contrary, a judge or chancellor may sign an order approving any tort claim settlement involving a minor that is less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) by relying on affidavits from the legal guardian. The court shall conduct a chambers hearing at which the minor and legal guardian are present to approve any tort claim settlement involving a minor that is ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more.
The statute removes all of the guess work on when and if an approval is necessary. Importantly, however, while court approval is mandated on all minor settlements, there is a distinction between cases settling for less than $10,000 and those settling for more. When a matter involving a minor settles for less than $10,000, the court approval process in that case can be streamlined through the use of affidavits and a hearing in the Judge’s chambers. When a minor’s settlement involves an amount greater than $10,000, an in-person court appearance will likely be required in order for the settlement to be approved.