MAY AN ORAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT REACHED THROUGH MEDIATION BE ENFORCED BY THE COURT?

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. a New Jersey Arbitration Lawyer
In New Jersey an oral settlement agreement reached during mediation can be enforced. However, the party seeking to enforce a mediator’s decision needs to waive his right to confidentiality of the mediation proceedings. 
In a recent case, the plaintiff claimed that no final, binding settlement agreement was reached at the mediation session. Defendants’ responded by filing a motion to enforce the mediation settlement. Five witnesses including the mediator testified at a hearing.  The lower court held that the parties had reached a final, binding settlement at the mediation session.  Plaintiff appealed, arguing that under New Jersey Court rules, the oral settlement was not enforceable because it did not meet the following criteria:
1)      It was not reduced to writing at the mediation session.
2)      A copy of the settlement was not given to each party.
3)      The parties did not sign the writing at the mediation session.
The Court held that the rule does not require the parties to reduce the settlement agreement to writing at the mediation session, nor does it provide that all parties should receive a copy of the writing before leaving the mediation session. “A delay of three days to memorialize a settlement reached through mediation does not vitiate the settlement.” Thus, the Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the rule requires “contemporaneous reduction of the terms to writing and obtaining signatures on the document at the mediation” session.  Accordingly, the oral agreement was enforceable.

Contact me personally today to discuss your New Jersey Arbitration or Mediation matter.  I am easy to talk to, very approachable and can offer you practical, legal ways to handle your concerns.  You can reach me toll free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail me at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com/.

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