Appellate opinions concerning the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements are coming fast and furious.
If you haven't prepared your form term sheets and memoranda of understanding by now, you might end up litigating the settlement whose purpose it was to stop the litigation.
Oh the irony!
Today's case Irvine v. Regents of University of California (4th Dist. 2007) was decided on a narrow procedural ground, leaving at large the questions of fraud, duress and mistake alleged by the Plaintiff as a bar to enforcement of her mediated settlement agreement.
The narrow issue here was whether a party could be excused from meeting the deadlines imposed by California Rule of Court 3.1385 simply by asserting that the challegned settlement agreement was uneforceable.
The Irvine Court, reversing the trial court's Rule 3.1385 dismissal, answered the question in the affirmative, explaining:
The only decision before the court at a rule 3.1385 hearing is whether to dismiss the case or restore it to the civil active list. By alleging a dispute over whether the parties reached a binding settlement, plaintiff demonstrated good cause to restore the case to the civil active list. In reaching this conclusion, we have not considered whether any of plaintiff's contentions have merit.
There you have it. Now the parties will be litigating the compromise they reached to avoid litigation. Don't let this happen to you. Start (but do not finish) here, where I have provided articles and case law bearing upon the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements.
If you want your agreements to be durable take the time to read the case law, check the statutory provisions and, yes, even read the Rules, like 3.1385 here, which requires that an action be dismissed within 45 days after the Court receives notice of settlement unless good cause is shown why the case should not be dismissed.