Attorney Emails Bind Client to Settlement
Attorney Emails can Bind Clients to a Settlement. Harrowing is it may be, an attorney can bind their client to negotiations by agreeing through an electronic mailing, an email!
In Alessina v. El Gauchito II Inc., Plaintiffs move for summary judgment in lieu of complaint, pursuant to CPLR 3213 to enforce the settlement in the amount of $325,000. Plaintiff further claims that defendants have defaulted in making the settlement payment. After a mediation, we have a settlement. The Court notes that "an email sent on March 3, 2021 from plaintiffs’ counsel to defendants’ former counsel, Christopher M. Lynch, Esq., confirm[ed the] $325,000 settlement reached by the parties during mediation before Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service (JAMS)." The issue is whether that message can be enforced through a motion for summary judgment:
CPLR 3213 states that “[w]hen an action is based upon an instrument for the payment of money only…the plaintiff may serve with the summons a notice of motion for summary judgment and the supporting papers in lieu of a complaint” (CPLR 3213; Griffon V, LLC v. 11 E. 36th, LLC, 90 AD3d 705 [2d Dept 2011]). “[T]he proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact” (Ayotte v. Gervasio, 81 NY2d 1062 , citing Alvarez v. Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320 ; see Schmitt v. Medford Kidney Center, 121 AD3d 1088 [2d Dept 2014]). “Pursuant to CPLR 2104, a settlement agreement is binding upon a party if it is in a writing subscribed either by the party or by his or her attorney” (Martin v. Harrington, 139 AD3d 1017 [2d Dept 2016]). Moreover, “[t]o be enforceable, a settlement agreement must set forth all material terms, and there must be [a] clear mutual accord between the parties” (Id. at 1018). Where “an email message 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, such an email message may be deemed a subscribed writing within the meaning of CPLR 2104 so as to constitute an enforceable agreement” (Forcelli v. Gelco Corp., 109 AD3d 244 [2d Dept 2013]; see Kataldo v. Atlantic Chevrolet Cadillac, 161 AD3d 1059 [2d Dept 2018]).
The Court agrees with the Plaintiff, that "plaintiffs have established, prima facie, entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. The terms of the settlement were as follows: “(1) payment of $325,000 by Monday May 3, 2021; (2) Division of settlement among employees to be determined by employees’ counsel; (3) Mutual confidentiality and NDA; and (4) Mutual non-disparagement.” In response, Mr. Lynch confirmed the settlement terms.
So what happened - on April 8, 2001, plaintiff’s counsel was informed by Mr. Lynch that defendants did not intend to abide by the settlement agreement. The Court concludes that "Defendants’ contention that the settlement is not enforceable because there was no action filed in federal court, is meritless." The email is binding: "Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment in lieu of complaint for the amount of $325,000, is granted."
The case is Alessina v. El Gauchito II Inc., and stands for the proposition that attorneys should be wary of their email messages and that an attorney's word will bind their client!
Cory H. Morris, Esq. New York and Florida, Injury, Addiction, Accident, Call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris, 631-450-2515 (NYS) (954) 998-2918 (FLA)
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