The empirical studies described here explore the proposition that apologies facilitate the settlement of civil disputes either by increasing potential plaintiffs’ inclination to accept a particular settlement offer or by altering parties’ perceptions and attributions in ways that might smooth the progress toward reaching a mutually satisfactory settlement agreement. More specifically, these studies explore the differing ways in which apologies are perceived and responded to when crafted to better insulate the offeror from legal liability (e.g., expressions of sympathy and statutorily protected apologies). This research suggests that an apology may favorably impact the prospects for settlement but that attention must be paid to both the nature of the apologetic expression and the circumstances of the individual case.
Jennifer K. Robbennolt, Apologies and Legal Settlement: An Empirical Examination, 102 Mich. L. Rev. 460 (2003).