Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Court of Appeal Requires Personal Consent for Enforceable Settlement Agreement

Critzer v. Enos (8/30/10) --- Cal.App.4th ---, emphasizes the need for the consent of all parties -- either in writing or orally before the court -- in order to obtain an enforceable settlement agreement.

In a multi-party action, the parties recited the terms of a settlement agreement in open court, and three of the five parties gave their consent on the record. The parties could not agree on the language of a formal settlement agreement, and one brought a motion to enforce settlement under California Code of Civil Procedure section 664.6, which provides:
If parties to pending litigation stipulate, in a writing signed by the parties outside the presence of the court or orally before the court, for settlement of the case, or part thereof, the court, upon motion, may enter judgment pursuant to the terms of the settlement. If requested by the parties, the court may retain jurisdiction over the parties to enforce the settlement until performance in full of the terms of the settlement.
The trial court granted the motion. The Court of Appeal, noting that the law requires the personal assent of the parties themselves, and not just their counsel, reversed:
We conclude further that because there was neither an oral settlement all parties personally agreed upon, nor a written settlement agreement signed by all of the parties, the court lacked authority under the summary procedure of section 664.6 to enforce any settlement.
Slip op. at 2.

The full text of the opinion is here.

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