Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Enforcement of Settlement Agreement Against Defendants Despite Lack of One Party’s Signature in Car Accident Case

Cows on RoadSuccessfully litigating a negligence cause of action against a careless driver who caused your injuries is a challenging and often time-consuming task. Unfortunately, even when the trial is over and you’ve secured a judgment in your favor, it can be even more challenging to enforce the judgment and to obtain the compensation that you deserve. As seasoned Boston car accident lawyers, we can handle all of the aspects of your claim from gathering evidence before filing to helping you enforce a settlement agreement or judgment in your favor.

A recent appellate opinion highlights the issues that can arise with enforcing a settlement agreement. The plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries when her car collided with two cows that had wandered from the defendant’s farm onto the road. The plaintiff and her husband filed a negligence lawsuit against the farm owner. The parties eventually agreed to mediation, which resulted in a settlement agreement. The defendant’s wife was not present at the mediation and did not sign the settlement agreement. Once the parties to a lawsuit reach a settlement, they must report this to the court.

After executing the settlement agreement, the defendant did not perform their obligations. The plaintiffs asked the lower court to enforce the settlement contract, and the defendants were given notice to attend a hearing. The defendants failed to appear, and the judge issued an order adopting the settlement agreement and providing for civil penalties against the defendants for failing to comply with its terms. The court also entered a judgment against the defendants and included a provision allowing the defendants to finalize a judgment against an unrelated third party and allowing the plaintiffs to satisfy the judgment against this unrelated party.

The defendants appealed, but the appellate court rejected their argument that the court’s order was indefinite and unenforceable because it involved the third party. The appellate court also determined that the lack of the wife’s signature did not render the agreement unenforceable, while also mentioning that the defendants had proper notice regarding the steps they were required to take to finalize the agreement.

Even if you have filed a negligence claim against the person who caused your injuries, you can pursue a settlement agreement that would conclude the litigation and avoid trial. The settlement agreement is essentially a contract between two parties that releases the defendant from the claim in exchange for a payment or some other proffer to the plaintiff. In situations in which the court is required to enforce a settlement agreement, the court must be sufficiently confident that the parties actually reached an agreement regarding the essential terms of the reconciliation. Other, more ancillary issues are not required to be included in the agreement. If the parties fail to designate a date for the payment of the settlement amount, for example, the court will still enforce the agreement and apply a reasonable timeframe for paying the sum.

At the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith, we pride ourselves on ensuring that our clients receive compassionate, timely, and vigorous legal representation. Car accidents are some of the most painful, devastating, and disruptive events that can occur to innocent and careful drivers. Let us assist you in seeking the compensation that you deserve for your injuries and financial losses. Call us at 1-617-263-0060 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

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