No Deal, Not Until Everyone Signs

by | Jun 2, 2011 | Contracts, Getting Paid, Litigation & Arbitration

Florida courts have consistently held that a settlement agreement resulting from a mediation will not be enforced without the signatures of both the attorney and the client. The fact that an attorney may have signed on behalf of his client or in the presence of his client is not sufficient to overcome the legal requirement that such an agreement also have the client’s signature.

A recent appellate decision upholding this long established position grew out of a case brought by a lawyer who sued for unpaid legal fees. The amount in dispute was some $25,000. While the parties (the former lawyer seeking his fees, the client who owed the fees, and the client’s new attorney) had attended a mediation, they couldn’t reach an agreement after three hours of settlement discussions.

Mediated Settlement Agreement: is it Valid?

They did, however, agree to continue seeking a resolution. Some time later, the former lawyer filed a Motion for Final Judgment, attaching what he referred to as a Mediated Settlement Agreement, calling for monthly payments over a period of time, with the usual provision that if the client didn’t make the promised payments, the lawyer could obtain a final judgment. Apparently, the client’s new attorney and the former lawyer had signed this agreement but the client had not. The representation to the court was that the client had orally agreed to the terms of the Mediated Settlement Agreement, and the court granted the Motion for Final Judgment.

No Deal, Not Until Everyone Signs: Corporate Litigation

The client subsequently denied that he had ever agreed to anything and he turned around and immediately appealed the court’s ratification and entry of this agreement. The client argued that the court incorrectly relied on a settlement agreement he hadn’t signed. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure along with a long line of cases supported the client. They state that any settlement agreement resulting from a successful mediation must be in writing and signed by both the parties and their counsel. Indeed, courts have even held that an attorney’s signature in the presence of a client is not enough to bind a client to the terms of a mediated settlement.

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