Court Enforces The Settlement Agreement.
Plaintiff Jing Jing Dan sued Rambla Vista Enterprises, LLC and Joichi Gushiken alleging sexual harassment and unwelcome sexual advances by Gushiken, followed by termination of employment after she objected to her treatment. Four days after a mediation, the parties entered into a stipulation for settlement, whereby defendants agreed to pay Dan $420K in consideration for a general release and a dismissal with prejudice. After defendants refused to pay or recognize the settlement, Dan filed a successful motion to enforce the settlement pursuant to CCP section 664.6. Defendants appealed. Jing Jing Dan v. Rambla Vista Enterprises, LLC, B252050 (2/1 Nov. 25, 2014) (Rothschild, Chaney, Miller) (unpublished).
The Court of Appeal shot down defendants’ three arguments for setting aside the settlement on appeal.
First, the Court of Appeal disagreed that a stipulation calling for payment in exchange for a full and complete general release of claims and a dismissal with prejudice was not definite and certain. Also, the stip provided that it was an enforceable settlement and contained all material terms.
Second, the Court rejected the argument that the stipulation was unenforceable because defendants’ counsel did not sign it. Cases supporting that argument were distinguishable, because they involved attorneys of record who were bypassed in the settlement process – not the case here.
Third, the Court rejected the argument the settlement should be scrapped because the defendant was old, hearing impaired, and exhausted by stress. None of that explained why he couldn’t understand a document he signed four days after the mediation. In any case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.
DRAFTING TIP: The stipulation for settlement contained language that it was binding on the parties and admissible pursuant to Evid. Code section 1123 – important if you want to get around mediation confidentiality. Also, we like the following “plain language”: “that ‘[w]hile there may be additional, minor, usual and customary settlement provisions, there are no other material terms (deal breakers) beyond those which are described in this memorandum and the lack of any specificity in that regard will not prevent the parties from being bound by the terms of the agreement.’”