Settlement and Cross-motion timing

Zisholtz & Zisholtz, LLP v Mandel, 2018 NY Slip Op 07349 [2d Dept. 2018]

Contrary to the plaintiff’s contention, it failed to submit any evidence that the purported open court settlement agreement of January 28, 2016, constituted a valid and binding settlement agreement pursuant to CPLR 2104 (see Diarassouba v Urban, 71 AD3d 51, 54; Maldonado v Novartis Pharms. Corp., 40 AD3d 940). Rather, the plaintiff submitted only the January 29 stipulation, which was not executed by the plaintiff. Therefore, the January 29 stipulation did not constitute an enforceable settlement agreement binding upon the plaintiff and the appellant (see CPLR 2104). In the absence of an enforceable settlement agreement, the Supreme Court should have denied the plaintiff’s motion.

We also disagree with the Supreme Court’s determination denying the cross motion as untimely. The plaintiff served its motion by regular mail on March 17, 2016, with a return date of April 6, 2016. In order to make effective its demand for seven days’ notice of answering papers or a cross motion (see CPLR 2214[b]; CPLR 2215), the plaintiff was required to have mailed its motion papers at least 21 days prior to the return date (see CPLR 2103[b][2]; CPLR 2214[b]; Matter of Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v Fell, 53 AD3d 760, 761-762). The plaintiff mailed its motion papers only 20 days before the return date. Thus, the cross motion, which was served six days before the return date, was timely (see CPLR 2215).

Demetriou v Wolfer, 2018 NY Slip Op 07288 [2d Dept. 2018]

In July 2012, the plaintiff commenced this action to recover damages for dental malpractice. On Friday, October 30, 2015, the plaintiff, by text message, directed her former attorney to discontinue the action. On that date, the former attorney and defense counsel executed a stipulation of discontinuance (see CPLR 3217[a][2]). On Saturday, October 31, 2015, the plaintiff, by text message, directed her former attorney to, among other things, “not dismiss my case under any circumstances; please retract . . . instructions to discontinue.” Within 30 minutes of receiving that message, the plaintiff’s former counsel advised the plaintiff that the case had already been discontinued. The stipulation of discontinuance was then filed on Monday, November 2, 2015. The plaintiff moved, inter alia, to vacate the stipulation of discontinuance. The Supreme Court denied the motion, and the plaintiff appeals.

We agree with the Supreme Court’s determination to deny the plaintiff’s motion, inter alia, to vacate the stipulation of discontinuance. CPLR 2104 provides that, “[a]n agreement between parties or their attorneys relating to any matter in an action, other than one between counsel in open court, is not binding upon a party unless it is in a writing subscribed by him or his attorney or reduced to the form of an order and entered.” Here, there is no dispute that on October 30, 2015, the plaintiff’s former counsel had actual authority from his client to enter into the stipulation discontinuing the action on her behalf (see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d 224, 230; Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP v Fashion Boutique of Short Hills, 56 AD3d 334, 335). Contrary to the plaintiff’s contention, the stipulation of discontinuance clearly evidenced the plaintiff’s intent to discontinue the action as of October 30, 2015, notwithstanding that she changed her mind prior to the filing of the stipulation on November 2, 2015 (see Lim v Choices, Inc., 60 AD3d 739, 740). Pursuant to CPLR 2104, the stipulation must be regarded as a valid, binding contract (see Pile v Grant, 41 AD3d 810), even though it did not effect a discontinuance until it was filed with the clerk of the court on November 2, 2015 (CPLR 3217[a][2]). In seeking to vacate the stipulation, the plaintiff failed to meet her burden to establish good cause sufficient to invalidate a contract, such as that the stipulation was the result of duress, fraud, mistake, or overreaching, or that the terms of the stipulation were unconscionable (see Chae Shin Oh v Jeannot, 160 AD3d 701Pieter v Polin, 148 AD3d 1191).

The bold is mine.

2104 and email

Kataldo v Atlantic Chevrolet Cadillac, 2018 NY Slip Op 03669 [2d Dept. 2018]

To be enforceable, a stipulation of settlement must conform to the criteria set forth in CPLR 2104 (see Forcelli v Gelco Corp., 109 AD3d 244, 248; see also Martin v Harrington, 139 AD3d 1017, 1018). Where, as in the instant case, counsel for the parties did not enter into a settlement in open court, an "agreement between parties or their attorneys relating to any matter in an action . . . is not binding upon a party unless it is in a writing subscribed by him or his attorney" (CPLR 2104). The plain language of CPLR 2104 requires that "the agreement itself must be in writing, signed by the party (or attorney) to be bound" (Bonnette v Long Is. Coll. Hosp., 3 NY3d 281, 286; see Forcelli v Gelco Corp., 109 AD3d at 248). An email message may be considered "subscribed" as required by CPLR 2104, and, therefore, capable of enforcement, where it "contains all material terms of a settlement and a manifestation of mutual accord, and the party to be charged, or his or her agent, types his or her name under circumstances manifesting an intent that the name be treated as a signature" (Forcelli v Gelco Corp., 109 AD3d at 251).

Here, the email confirming the settlement agreement was sent by counsel for the party seeking to enforce the agreement, LICO. There is no email subscribed by the plaintiff, who is the party to be charged, or by her former attorney. In the absence of a writing subscribed by the plaintiff or her attorney, the settlement agreement is unenforceable against the plaintiff (see id. at 248; see also CPLR 2104).

Stipulations [2104] – Authority

Chae Shin Oh v Jeannot, 2018 NY Slip Op 02446 [2d Dept 2018]

On March 7, 2017, the plaintiff's new counsel sent a stop work letter and consent to change attorneys to the plaintiff's prior counsel. On April 7, 2017, the plaintiff moved by order to show cause, inter alia, to vacate the stipulation, contending that the plaintiff did not authorize her prior counsel to enter into the stipulation. The Supreme Court granted that branch of the motion which was to vacate the stipulation. The defendant appeals.

The Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting that branch of the plaintiff's motion which was to vacate the stipulation. The stipulation, signed by counsel for each party in this action during a court appearance, is a binding contract (see CPLR 2104; Daibes v Kahn, 116 AD3d 994, 995; Cervera v Bressler, 85 AD3d 839, 841; Kirkland v Fayne, 78 AD3d 660, 660; Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v Swim Tech Pool Servs., Inc., 37 AD3d 706Aivaliotis v Continental Broker-Dealer Corp., 30 AD3d 446, 447). Contrary to the plaintiff's contention, her counsel at the time of the stipulation had the apparent authority to enter into the stipulation. This prior counsel signed and verified the summons and complaint, appeared for the plaintiff at the preliminary conference and the compliance conference, and filed a note of issue, all before entering into the stipulation on the plaintiff's behalf. The presence of an attorney at pretrial conferences constitutes "an implied representation by [the client] to defendants that [the attorney] had authority" to bind the [*2]client to a stipulation (Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d 224, 231-232). Indeed, only attorneys who are authorized to enter into binding stipulations may appear at pretrial conferences (see 22 NYCRR 202.26[e]; cf. 22 NYCRR 202.12[b]). Here, the plaintiff's engagement of her prior counsel to represent her throughout the litigation and to appear on her behalf at pretrial and compliance conferences precludes her from arguing that prior counsel lacked the authority to bind her to the stipulation. "A stipulation made by the attorney may bind a client even where it exceeds the attorney's actual authority if the attorney had apparent authority to enter into the stipulation" (Davidson v Metropolitan Tr. Auth., 44 AD3d 819, 819, citing Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d at 231).

Thus, only where there is cause sufficient to invalidate a contract, such as fraud, collusion, mistake, or accident, will a party be relieved from the consequences of a stipulation made during litigation (see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d at 230). It was the plaintiff, as the party seeking to set aside the stipulation, who had the burden of showing that the agreement was the result of fraud, duress, or overreaching, or that its terms were unconscionable (see Cervera v Bressler, 85 AD3d at 841). The plaintiff failed to present any such evidence in this case (see Kirkland v Fayne, 78 AD3d at 660; Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v Swim Tech Pool Servs., Inc., 37 AD3d at 706).

 

Halstead v Fournia, 2018 NY Slip Op 02525 [3d Dept. 2018]

We begin our analysis with the recognition that courts have long favored and encouraged the fashioning of stipulations by parties to litigation and that "[s]trong policy considerations" favor the enforcement of such agreements (Denburg v Parker Chapin Flattau & Klimpl, 82 NY2d 375, 383 [1993]; see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d 224, 230 [1984]). As the Court of Appeals has explained: "Stipulations not only provide litigants with predictability and assurance that courts will honor their prior agreements, but also promote judicial economy by narrowing the scope of issues for trial. To achieve these policy objectives, a stipulation is generally binding on parties that have legal capacity to negotiate, do in fact freely negotiate their agreement and either reduce their stipulation to a properly subscribed writing or enter the stipulation orally on the record in open court" (McCoy v Feinman, 99 NY2d 295, 302 [2002] [citations omitted]; see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d at 230; Mitchell v New York Hosp., 61 NY2d 208, 214 [1984]; Mann v Simpson & Co., 286 NY 450, 459 [1941]). When a stipulation satisfies these requirements, as it does here, it is to be construed as an independent contract subject to principles of contract interpretation (see Matter of Banos v Rhea, 25 NY3d 266, 276 [2015]; McCoy v Feinman, 99 NY2d at 302; Rainbow v Swisher, 72 NY2d 106, 109 [1988]; Fulginiti v Fulginiti, 127 AD3d 1382, 1384 [2015]). So construed, a valid stipulation may not be set aside "absent a showing of good cause such as fraud, collusion, mistake or duress; or unless the agreement is unconscionable or contrary to public policy; or unless it suggests an ambiguity indicating that the words [do] not fully and accurately represent the parties' agreement" (McCoy v Feinman, 99 NY2d at 302 [internal citations omitted]; accord Matter of Badruddin, 152 AD3d 1010, 1011 [2017], lv dismissed 30 NY3d 1080 [2018]; Matter of Kaczor v Kaczor, 101 AD3d 1403, 1404 [2012]; see Tverskoy v Ramaswami, 83 AD3d 1195, 1196 [2011]).

CPLR 2104

CPLR 2104

Tavolacci v Tavolacci, 2014 NY Slip Op 00986 [2nd Dept. 2014]

Contrary to the plaintiff's contentions, the record demonstrates that the parties validly entered into a comprehensive open-court stipulation (see CPLR 2104; Pretterhofer v Pretterhofer, 37 AD3d at 446; Borghoff v Borghoff, 8 AD3d 519) by which the plaintiff unequivocally, knowingly, and voluntarily agreed to be bound (see Pretterhofer v Pretterhofer, 37 AD3d at 446). Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly denied the plaintiff's motion, in effect, to vacate the stipulation of settlement and properly granted that branch of the defendant's motion which was to incorporate the stipulation of settlement into the judgment of divorce.

Emphasis mine.

Stipulations

CPLR R. 2104 Stipulations

Florimon v Xianglin Xu, 2012 NY Slip Op 05388 (2nd Dept. 2012)

On November 27, 2007, the day of trial, the attorneys for both parties drafted a stipulation of settlement. The stipulation changed certain portions of the contract of sale, including increasing the purchase price from $380,000 to $403,500, and provided that the closing was to take place within 45 days from the signing of the agreement. The stipulation provided that it was not binding until it was executed by one of the defendants.

On December 3, 2007, the defendants returned the signed stipulation of settlement to the plaintiff with two handwritten modifications. Upon receipt of the stipulation, the plaintiff informed the defendants that he did not consent to the modifications and requested that the defendants "forward an original signed stipulation . . . at [their] earliest convenience." The plaintiff contended that the defendants never returned to him the original stipulation without the modifications. The defendants dispute this contention.

Thereafter, the defendants sought to enforce the unmodified stipulation drafted by the parties' attorneys on November 27, 2007, and the plaintiff opposed the motion. In the order appealed from, the Supreme Court denied the defendants' motion, inter alia, to enforce the unmodified stipulation on the ground that it was not binding, and granted the plaintiff's cross motion pursuant to CPLR 3025 for leave to amend the complaint to add a cause of action for the return of a down payment. Upon the order, and after a nonjury trial, judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendants. The defendants appeal and we reverse the judgment.

The record demonstrates that an unmodified version of the stipulation of settlement was executed by one of the defendants. Contrary to the plaintiff's argument, whether the unmodified stipulation was delivered to the plaintiff was irrelevant, as there was no requirement obligating the defendants to physically deliver the stipulation to the plaintiff in order to enforce it (see Morgan Servs., Inc. v Abrams, 21 AD3d 1284, 1285; Bohlen Indus. of N. Am. v Flint Oil & Gas, 106 AD2d 909, 910; Birch v McNall, 19 AD2d 850, 850; cf. Brois v DeLuca, 154 AD2d 417). Thus, the unmodified stipulation was binding, and that branch of the defendants' motion which was to enforce the unmodified stipulation should have been granted.

Ratificaton

Dinhofer v Medical Liab. Mut. Ins. Co., 92 AD3d 480 (1st Dept., 2012)

Plaintiff's claims against the MLMIC defendants of fraud, deceitful business practices, and breach of their duty to defend him in good faith are barred by the doctrine of equitable estoppel. The MLMIC defendants established that in reasonable reliance upon plaintiff's execution of the consent to settle the underlying medical malpractice action they made a prejudicial change in their position by, inter alia, disbanding the advisory committee that, pursuant to the policy, would have resolved the matter of settlement absent plaintiff's consent, and paying to settle the claim against him (see River Seafoods, Inc. v JPMorgan Chase Bank, 19 AD3d 120, 122 [2005]). These claims are also barred by the doctrine of ratification, since plaintiff failed to act promptly to seek rescission of the consent (see Matter of Guttenplan, 222 AD2d 255, 257 [1995], lv denied 88 NY2d 812 [1996]), and indeed accepted and retained the benefits of the settlement (see Napolitano v City of New York, 12 AD3d 194 [2004]).

Stipulations

Albert Jacobs, LLP v Parker, 2012 NY Slip Op 02819 (2nd Dept., 2012)

"[A] written agreement that is complete, clear and unambiguous on its face must be enforced according to the plain meaning of its terms" (Greenfield v Philles Records, 98 NY2d 562, 569; see MHR Capital Partners LP v Presstek, Inc., 12 NY3d 640, 645). Here, the parties' written escrow agreement clearly enumerates certain conditions to the release of escrow funds. None of those conditions was met.

Altonen v Kmart of NY Holdings, Inc., 2012 NY Slip Op 02820 (2nd Dept., 2012)

The Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in denying the defendants' cross motion to compel production of a confidential settlement agreement from certain prior personal injury actions unrelated to this action, as the settlement agreement is not material and necessary to their defense of this action (see CPLR 3101[a]; Allstate Ins. Co. v Belt Parkway Imaging, P.C., 70 AD3d 530; Matter of New York County Data Entry Worker Prod. Liab. Litig., 222 AD2d 381).

Court can’t screw with stip

CPLR R. 2104

Genger v Genger, 2011 NY Slip Op 01357 (App. Div., 1st 2011)

While recognizing that, pursuant to the stipulation, plaintiff is entitled to further audits as to the completeness and accuracy of the marital assets and liabilities contained on the marital balance sheet as of January 31, 2002 and valued as of October 26, 2004, the court impermissibly restricted the scope of these audits, essentially rewriting the stipulation by imposing additional terms (see Matter of Salvano v Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, 85 NY2d 173, 182 [1995]). The stipulation is patently unambiguous and clearly evinces the parties' intent (see Chimart Assoc. v Paul, 66 NY2d 570, 574 [1986]). It contains no restriction or limitation on the scope of the audits. The court was not at liberty to alter or change any of the provisions of the stipulation without the consent of both parties (see Leffler v Leffler, 50 AD2d 93, 95 [1975], affd 40 NY2d 1036 [1976]).

Defendant is bound by the contents of the stipulation (see Da Silva v Musso, 53 NY2d 543, 550 [1981]). His assertions are insufficient to rebut "the heavy presumption that a deliberately prepared and executed written instrument manifested the true intention of the parties" (Merrick v Merrick, 181 AD2d 503 [1992] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]).

On stipulations, generally.

CPLR R. 2104 Stipulations 

Dental Health Assoc. v Zangeneh2011 NY Slip Op 00484 (App. Div., 2nd 2011) 

Zangeneh correctly argues that the parties' stipulation entered into on May 6, 2002, bars this belated claim for disgorgement. "By stipulation, the parties may shape the facts to be determined at trial and thus circumscribe the relevant issues for the court to the exclusion of disputed matters that otherwise would be available to the parties" (Deitsch Textiles v New York Prop. Ins. Underwriting Assn., 62 NY2d 999, 1002; see Roberts v Worth Constr., Inc., 21 AD3d 1074Nishman v De Marco, 76 AD2d 360). Here, the parties agreed that the accounting issues, as raised in a motion made by the plaintiffs in March 2002, inter alia, to adopt the accounting report, would be the only unresolved issues following the trial of the tort and contract claims. The claim for disgorgement was not raised in the plaintiffs' March 2002 motion. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' belated request for disgorgement should have been denied.

Some stipulations, while seemingly inconsequential, are anything but.

 

Don’t Count Your Stips Until They’ve Hatched (CPLR R. 2104)

While I've been out in beautiful sunny Ohio, this case has been making the rounds.  It was first noticed by John Hochfelder and followed up by the Turk.  Oh, right, the case.

Diarassouba v Urban, 2009 NY Slip Op 09420 (App. Div., 2nd, 2009)

While the court was in recess and the jury was deliberating, Conrad Jordan, counsel for the plaintiff, communicated to the defendants' counsel, Barry M. Viuker, that his client had authorized him to accept a settlement offer in the sum of $150,000. Viuker provided no confirmation of the settlement, but rather asked, "Do we have a settlement?" Jordan responded that [*2]he accepted the settlement offer. Viuker proceeded to leave the room for several minutes, without having responded in any way to Jordan's statement. The defense counsel's question, "Do we have a settlement?" was his only and final mention of the settlement agreement until after the court took the jury's verdict.

During Viuker's absence from the courtroom, Jordan informed the court clerk that the parties had reached a settlement, although he did not provide a specific settlement amount. The clerk did not record this information, but said that he would inform the Judge, who was already on her way to the courtroom to read a new jury note. Viuker then returned to the courtroom. When the judge arrived at the courtroom, Viuker inquired, off the record, as to the contents of the jury note. The Judge responded that the jury had reached a verdict. Once again, Viuker left the room for a short while.

When Viuker returned, Jordan asked the court to memorialize the settlement on the record prior to taking the verdict, but the court refused Jordan's requests.

"Mr. Jordan: Could I put my request on the record?

"The Court: Once I have a verdict, I take the verdict, and then the parties are free to do what they agreed to. An agreement is an agreement, counsel.

"Mr. Jordan: Why can't we put the agreement to settle the case for $150,000 on the record?

"The Court: Because I said what I have to say. Let's proceed."


Viuker was silent throughout this whole exchange.

The verdict was then taken in the plaintiff's favor, finding that Dr. Lubin and Dr. Horiuchi were each 35% at fault for the plaintiff's injury. The jury awarded the plaintiff the sum of $800,000 for past pain and suffering and the sum of $650,000 for future pain and suffering over 30 years.

After hearing the jury verdict, Jordan asserted that the purported stipulation of settlement was invalid on the ground that the court never permitted the settlement terms to go on the record. Jordan further posited that the settlement was invalid on the ground that the defense never consented to the settlement, but rather, was completely silent throughout Jordan's requests to put the settlement on the record.

"The Court: Now [that the verdict has been taken], Mr. Jordan, what is it that you would like to say?

"Mr. Jordan: Now, your Honor, what I will report for the record is that I attempted to talk to the Court about settlement and I watched the defense attorney, while he heard that there was a quick verdict, go outside twice. I heard him come in, and while he was in this courtroom he did nothing to second my application to this Court to put a settlement on the record and the Court did nothing to ask the parties whether there's a settlement on the record. As far as I know, the caselaw is there has to be a settlement on the record to be binding. So, at this point, the position of the plaintiff is that there is not [a] settlement, and there was no settlement."

Thereafter, by order dated March 28, 2008, the Supreme Court granted the defendants' motion to enforce the purported stipulation of settlement. The court determined that the settlement had been made in open court, with the judge on the bench and the court reporter and court clerk in attendance. As such, the court found that it was not necessary for the stipulation to have been placed on the record. The plaintiff appeals. We reverse.

CPLR 2104, the law governing settlements, sets forth that,

"An agreement between parties or their attorneys relating to any matter in an [*3]action other than one made between counsel in open court, is not binding upon a party unless it is in writing subscribed to by him or his attorney or reduced to the form of an order and entered. With respect to stipulations of settlement and notwithstanding the form of the stipulation of settlement, the terms of such stipulation shall be filed by the defendant with the County Clerk."

Thus, a settlement agreement is valid only if both parties stipulate to the settlement in a written agreement or it is made in open court and placed on the record.

Make no mistake about it, this decision is important.  Read the entire decision, then read it again.  Then, go ahead and take a look at Velazquez v St. Barnabas Hosp., 2009 NY Slip Op 09315 (Ct. App. 2009), where the Court of Appeals held:

The parties do not dispute that they agreed to settle the action for a specific amount; however, details regarding conditions of the settlement, including a disputed [*2]confidentiality agreement, were never recorded or memorialized. No agreement was made in open court or filed with the county clerk. Accordingly, it is not binding upon the parties (see CPLR 2104; Matter of Dolgin Eldert Corp., 31 NY2d 1, 9-11 [1972]; Andre-Long v Verizon Corp., 31 AD3d 353, 354 [2d Dept 2006]).