Washington Case Law Update: Determining Whether Communications Between Attorneys Constitute a Settlement Agreement

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Washington Case Law Update: Determining Whether Communications Between Attorneys Constitute a Settlement Agreement

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: Attorneys representing their respective clients often engage in email, telephone and in-person discussions to reach a settlement agreement.  But which statements by counsel are sufficient to constitute a binding settlement agreement? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a dispute over a construction project, the plaintiff sought to enforce communications between the attorneys as a settlement agreement.  On review, the Washington Court of Appeals determined that the communications were insufficient to constitute a settlement agreement because defendant’s statements failed to show an assent to be bound by the terms of a settlement agreement.  This case serves as an overview and example of how courts review communications to determine whether certain statements constitute a settlement agreement.

Goebel Design Group, LLC. v. Clear NRG, LLC., No. 77090-0-I, Washington Court of Appeals Div. I (August 6, 2018) (unpublished).

Goebel Design Group, LLC, (“Goebel”) entered into a contractual agreement with Clear NRG, LLC (“Clear”), under which Clear agreed to perform remodel and construction work on a project.  Following a dispute, Goebel filed suit against Clear.  Thereafter, attorneys for both parties entered into settlement discussions.  Goebel offered to settle the suit for $50,000 and a personal guarantee by Clear’s sole member, or $65,000 and no personal guarantee.  Clear responded by offering $40,000 and a personal guarantee, or $55,000 and no personal guarantee.

Goebel made another offer, composed of a personal guarantee, and $2,000 monthly payments for 25 months, along with interest on the unpaid balance.  Clear’s counsel responded “[l]ooking like my client is inclined to accept your most recent settlement proposal. Devil is in the details though. Send me the docs...

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