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E-mail Settlement binding upon the Parties

Two lawyers went back and forth using e-mail to attempt to settle a case. After a summons and complaint were filed, it seemed that the two settled the claim. The Court noted that this was further bolstered by the check being sent and cashed.

Issue: "The legal question at issue is whether the e-mail negotiations between counsel, which contained their printed names at the end, constitute signed writings in accordance with CPLR 2104 in order to constitute a settlement agreement."

Rule: ["The e-mail communications indicate that [the opposing party] was aware of and consented to the settlement; the record contains no indication to the contrary, or that counsel was without authority to enter into the settlement (see Hallock v. State of New York, 64 NY2d 224 [1984]; cf. Katzen v. Twin Pines Fuel Corp., 16 AD3d 133 [2005]). To the contrary, the record supports only the conclusion that counsel at least had apparent authority."]

The statute provides that "[a]n agreement between parties or their attorneys relating to any matter in an action, other than one made between counsel in open court is not binding upon a party unless it is in a writing subscribed by him or his attorney." CPLR 2104. The Court notes that "New York State has a strong policy for promoting settlement, such that 'settlements, once entered, are to be enforced with rigor' and thus must be "clear, final and the product of mutual accord." Bonnette v. Long Island Coll. Hosp., 3 N.Y.3d 281, 286 (2004). Accordingly, the "Court finds that there was mutual assent between the parties to agree to settle the action…"

[This Court's conclusion is consistent with the appellate authority on the subject. In Williamson v. Delsener, 59 A.D.3d 291 (1st Dep't 2009), the First Department held: The e-mails exchanged between counsel, which contained their printed names at the end, constitute signed writings (CPLR 2104) within the meaning of the statute of frauds (see Stevens v. Publicis S.A., 50 AD3d 253, 255-256 [2008], Iv dismissed 10 NY3d 930 [2008], and entitle [that party] to judgment (CPLR 5003-a [e]). The agreement to settle at 60 percent of the amount demanded was sufficiently clear and concrete to constitute an enforceable contract (see Hostcentric Tech., Inc. v. Republic Thunderbolt, LLC, 2005 WL 1377853, 2005 US Dist LEXIS 11130 [SD NY 2005]). [The other party's] subsequent refusal to execute form releases and a stipulation of discontinuance did not invalidate the agreement (see Wronka v. GEM Community Mgt., 49 AD3d 869 [2008]; Cole v. Macklowe, 40 AD3d 396 [2007]).]

Conclusion: The e-mail negotiations, including the settlement, were binding upon the lawyers;

The case is Maria McBride Productions, Inc. v. Madonna Badger and Badger & Winters Inc., 032478/2014, NYLJ 1202719533513, at *1 (Civ., NY, Decided February 26, 2015

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