MOORE V. BELL PARTNERS
In Moore v. Bell Partners , decided on November 5, 2013, (unpublished) the Court of Appeals addressed the enforceability of a settlement agreement.
In this case, the plaintiff rented an apartment from the defendant. The plaintiff began having problems with mold in the apartment, resulting in physical problems. The apartments offered the plaintiffs about $4,000 to settle their claims. The plaintiffs responded with a demand of approximately $10,000. The defendant (apartments) accepted this demand, and sent a settlement agreement to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs therafter told the defendant that they had not decided whether to settle, and they retained a lawyer. The defendant sent the check to the plaintiffs along with the settlement agreement. The plaintiffs returned the check to the defendant, and filed suit.
The lower court ruled that the parties had settled their claim, and dismissed the suit. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the parties had not reached an agreement on the terms of the settlement. The primary point was that the defendant's settlement agreement included a confidentiality clause, which the court held was a new term, thereby constituting a rejection of the plaintiffs' demand and a counter-offer.
John Kirby has represented many parties in civil actions, and has drafted settlement agreements. The parties must ensure that the terms of any settlement are sufficiently clear to be enforceable.