ransom factor
n. The tendency for one party in a civil case to settle out of court to avoid the potentially high cost of fighting the case.
The third and most worrying implication for newspapers under the arrangement is what is becoming known as the 'ransom factor': the fear that the potential size of costs may persuade the press into settling on a case which should be fought. …

The Telegraph's lawyer, James Price QC, coined the phrase 'ransom factor' to describe the impact on media groups of the high costs payable to claimants' lawyers who act under fee agreements. He warned that these were an enormous incentive to newspapers to buy out of litigation, regardless of the merits of the case.
—Jessica Hodgson, “Newspapers falling prey to legal eagles,” The Observer, September 28, 2003
Conditional fee agreements (CFAs) allow lawyers to offer a "no win, no fee" service. If the client wins, his lawyer trousers a success fee, paid as an extra percentage of his hourly rate. The cost is borne by the losing side. …

If the claimant has no insurance, defendants had better settle because they will never recover costs if the claimant has no resources. This is known as the "ransom factor".

The ransom factor looms large in Adam Musa King v Telegraph Group, the first defamation case to consider the use of a CFA. In June the judge refused to strike out the case (involving allegations that King supported al-Qaeda), even though The Daily Telegraph argued that it was so weak as to amount to an abuse of process.

This is being appealed. It was argued that the ransom factor could force defendants facing potential costs of Pounds 1 million to settle for paying Pounds 10,000 damages plus inflated costs in unmeritorious cases.
—David Hooper, “Freedom of speech is being held to ransom,” The Times of London, September 23, 2003
2002 (earliest)
An amendment to Prop. 65 that went into effect this year will make it tougher for "bounty hunter" lawyers to use the law's private enforcer provisions to sue businesses for the principal purpose of extracting settlements-and high attorney fees. …

While the amendments are a remedy, McGaw says they don't solve the problem.

"There's always a ransom factor, and that isn't going to go away," McGaw said.
—“New law cuffs Prop. 65 'bounty hunters',” East Bay Business Times, March 22, 2002
The word factor — meaning "something that influences, or is in some way a significant element in, the outcome of some larger situation" — is often the source of ire for people on a crusade against overwrought English. For example, in his crabby book Junk English, writer Ken Smith describes factor as "the most frequently overused, misused, abused word in today's junk English lexicon."

That's a bit harsh, but it's certainly true that we're seeing a lot of new phrases that include factor after some defining term. On the Word Spy site, for example, you'll find not only ransom factor, but also nag factor, thud factor, and yuck factor, among others. Call it the "factor" factor of new-word creation.
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