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Settlement Agreement Questions

A settlement agreement is a way to end a civil lawsuit when the two parties involved decide it will be their advantage to end the dispute and settle without further litigation. The agreement is a legal, binding contract between the parties. Usually, the defendant will agree to pay a certain amount of money, either in a lump sum or over a specified period of time, to the plaintiff in exchange for ending the lawsuit. The specific terms and conditions of this contract will be laid out in the settlement agreement.

Listed below are a few questions answered by business lawyers on settlement agreements.

Can a signed handwritten settlement agreement be seen as a valid contract?

A valid settlement agreement that has been signed does not become invalid just because it was handwritten. So yes, it should be valid.

If a settlement agreement is created in a civil court case and the plaintiff and defendants are stipulated as parties to this settlement, do all of them have to sign the document for it to be binding?

Yes, all the parties would have to sign the settlement for it to be binding. You can also proceed to trial with those who decide not to sign the agreement.

I filed a lawsuit against a company and now need to sign a settlement agreement with them. The first part of the agreement states: This confidential Settlement and Release agreement executed on the date set forth below is made and entered between "My Name", his representatives, heirs and assigns, in favor of "Company Name". Is the phrase “in favor” standard usage and what does it imply?

This seems like standard language. From what you have said it seems like the company is paying you and in exchange you are being asked to sign a settlement and release agreement. If the rest of the agreement seems fine, this phrase doesn’t seem like anything you have to worry about.

A settlement agreement from one shareholder’s lawyer to another shareholder’s lawyer first states that they accept the clients offer, then goes on to list properties that are being divided, and then finally mentions the amount of money involved in the transaction. Can this be upheld in court?

If the details of the settlement are listed in the agreement, it can be upheld in court unless one party was defrauded into being a part of the settlement agreement in the first place.

I cancelled a pending trial by entering into a settlement agreement. Part of the agreement was to not disclose contents of the agreement to my customers. This part of the agreement was breached. I am wondering if I can re-open the case based on the occurrence and withhold any payments that were part of the agreement.

To begin with, two wrongs do not make a right: Two breaches do not set everything right. You could go back to court to try and remedy this to the extent that the agreement has been breached. But in doing so, if you then breach the agreement in return, you could face legal consequences and the problem will only worsen.

If the case was dismissed, it would not be possible to just re-open it. Depending on the way the case was dismissed, you might have to re-file it. In the event that the matter has not been dismissed yet, you may still be able to put the issue back on the court's calendar.

Very often, cases can be settled either at the beginning or at some point in the negotiations through a settlement agreement. In many forums, judges welcome the opportunity to allow parties to decide the outcome of their case based on mutual understandings embodied in an agreement. Any agreement reached should also be simple and uncomplicated to lower the possibility of future litigation with regard to breaches of the agreement. Seeking the advice of a legal expert in this matter may be advisable.
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Recent Settlement Questions

  • A year ago I contracted with a developer for an online Yahoo

    A year ago I contracted with a developer for an online Yahoo store. The contract stated that it would be completed in 6 - 8 weeks; however, by the end of December they not only hadn't completed the store, but they were causing problems so that more than one Yahoo technician advised me to find a new developer, one stating they created a mess in the store and she would lock them out before they do more damage. This developer (IoVista) consulted with another developer (YTimes) to enlist their help in saving my store (I have emails documenting this). After months of my spending long hours and days to correct the problems they created with the help of Yahoo, IoVista at the end of the year told me that they could not or would not upload a csv file of about 2000 items (for which I paid them) because it would "create a mess in the store". The store was not publishing and worse, the revert feature was not working.

    I then turned to YTimes and contracted with them to fix the template which they said was ridden with bad coding and to upload the csv file that IoVista hadn't done. I paid YTimes a set fee to diagnose the problems with my store, after which they said for a fixed fee they would fix the template, some misc. fees for minor changes and a 3 month retainer fee which they said could be used for instruction on how to prepare and upload csv sheets. They anticipated that they would complete this work within weeks but I did not insist on a deadline. However, months later, the csv sheet which they uploaded apparently created the same "mess" that the IoVista encountered. This happened twice, and I had to spend hours and weeks manually fixing things.

    I trust that they fixed the template, and they were paid for their discovery work to diagnose the problems, but since I never availed myself of the retainer other than to discuss questions which either they or I had in order to accomplish the tasks for which I paid, I did not believe that the retainer was in effect--by their pacing of their work on my project, they were in control of how long the project would take to complete with no end in sight. Further, they did not respond to my questions for long periods of time, sometimes a week or more. Throughout all I was patient and remained on good terms with YTimes. However, at a point of crisis where the store did not publish and Yahoo could not be sure if it could be made to publish, and I told them so, the email response I received was one asking for another three month retainer.

    After this request for more money I wrote directly to owner of the company and asked questions about the retainer which I hadn't known was in effect and the project. He answered some questions which clarified some things, and I responded with my final email to him. Upon receiving my email, he stated that effective immediately he was terminating our business relationship on the basis of his interpretation of my letter as indicating that I lost trust in his company. Notice that right after his partner asked me for another retainer his boss admits in his letter that this project for which I paid as a discrete task, not on a time basis, has "no end in sight".

    There are many things in the store that my third developer does not understand, nor does Yahoo, and which only the person who put these things in would know, such as lists of thousands of items in lists, referenced items, and other things. YTimes was supposed to look into all this as part of what they called Phase 1 work for which I paid. Unfortunately, they abandoned me before getting to Phase 2, leaving me in a lurch. Their website says their work is guaranteed, so can they unilaterally break their relationship? I just received a check for $200 as a partial refund which I have no idea how they arrived at. Should I cash this check? Would this be construed as a "settlement" if I do? What do you advise?

    (I'll post the last correspondence.)


    As for the first developer who broke the contract which had a money back guarantee if not completed within 8 - 10 weeks, it appears obvious that they owe me my money back.

    Thank you.
  • In California, is a settlement conference considered a pretrial

    In California, is a settlement conference considered a 'pretrial conference' under CCP Sec 575?
  • In a mediated settlement for a divorce when two parties agree

    In a mediated settlement for a divorce when two parties agree to a mediated settlement and the agreement is incorporated into the divorce as permenant stipulations are the permenant stipulations(PS) considered a contract? If the PS are or are not a contract could you please state caselaw that backs up your assertion? Thank you
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