An “Apology” Law that Actually Uses the Word “Apology”

We learn from a posting at that Hong Kong has passed its version of what many jurisdictions refer to as an “apology law.” The idea is to encourage apologies between litigants by making apologies inadmissible should the case go to trial. The article contrasts the more straightforward Hong Kong legislation, which actually defines “apology,” and uses the word “sorry,” with the “more circumspect” California law, which makes inadmissible “[t]he portion of statements, writings, or benevolent gestures expressing sympathy or a general sense of benevolence relating to the pain, suffering, or death of a person involved in an accident and made to that person or to the family of that person.” (California Evidence Code Section 1160(a)). The Hong Kong law defines apology as, “an expression of the person’s regret, sympathy or benevolence in connection with the matter and includes, for example, an expression that the person is sorry about the matter.”

Michigan’s version of an “apology law,” passed in 2011, uses language similar to California’s in defining what is inadmissible. See MCL 600.2155. While California’s so-called “apology law” pertains to a person involved in an accident, Michigan’s is limited to actions for medical malpractice. In contrast, the Hong Kong ordinance seems to apply to any “matter.”

As the article’s author, Phyllis Pollack, who is apparently a mediator in southern California, notes, if courts and legislatures really want to encourage settlement, they could do more to protect and encourage apologies, using the new Hong Kong law as a model.


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