Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mediation Settlement Agreement Must Be Signed By Client - Not Attorney - Or It Is Not Enforceable

In Dean v. Rutherford Mulhall, P.A. (4D08-2267), the Fourth District held a mediation settlement agreement - signed by the attorneys - is not enforceable and cannot be reported to the Court unless signed by the actual clients. The court held:

Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.730(b), regarding completion of mediation, states that “[n]o agreement under this rule shall be reported to the court” unless, inter alia, the agreement is “reduced to writing and signed by the parties and their counsel, if any.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.730(b) (2008). Florida courts consistently have held that a supposed settlement agreement resulting from mediation cannot be enforced absent the signatures of all parties.


Similarly, in the present case, Dean’s attorney signed the purported Settlement Agreement, as did representatives of Rutherford Mulhall, but Dean did not sign. See id. Because Dean did not sign the Settlement Agreement, under the rule articulated in Gordon, the Settlement Agreement did not bind Dean.


The record shows that the trial court relied on a Settlement Agreement that Dean did not sign in ordering him to pay $32,000 to Rutherford Mulhall. Florida law requires that a party sign a settlement agreement before it can be enforced against him. E.g., Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.730(b); Gordon, 641 So. 2d at 517. Thus, on the face of the record, the trial court committed reversible error. See Applegate, 377 So. 2d at 1152.


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