Massachusetts Appeals Court Reverses and Remands in Case in Which Defendant Alleged There Was a Settlement but the Plaintiff Disagreed

Many Cape Cod personal injury cases settle outside of court. Some claims settle before a lawsuit has been filed, some suits settle after the discovery phase has been completed, and some cases literally settle on the front steps of the courthouse. In most situations, the parties agree that the case has been settled, paperwork is drawn up, and the defendant pays the plaintiff the monetary amount that has been agreed upon. Sometimes, however, a dispute arises as to whether a “meeting of the minds” has truly been had – such as recently happened in a case involving multiple plaintiffs who were seeking recovery against the same defendant.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported case, the plaintiff was apparently a litigant or a would-be litigant in a personal injury case that involved her sister and the defendant. (The circumstances of the case are not explained in the court’s opinion.) The plaintiff’s sister allegedly settled her claim against the defendant. The plaintiff, however, alleged that she did not authorize an attorney to settle her claim; rather, according to the plaintiff’s response to the defendant’s motion to enforce the purported settlement agreement, the plaintiff’s attorney sent an email to the defendant’s attorney to formally reject the offer that had been made.

The trial court judge granted the defendant’s motion to enforce the settlement that he alleged the plaintiff had entered into. The plaintiff appealed, seeking review of the appellate court.

The Court’s Decision on Appeal

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court vacated the lower court’s ruling and remanded the matter for further findings. The plaintiff had argued that the motion judge in the court below had failed to rule independently on the merits of the motion and had, instead, adopted another judge’s ruling in regard to a motion involving her sister’s claim against the defendant. According to the plaintiff, her sister’s case was in a different procedural posture than her own; specifically, the plaintiff contended that her sister had failed to oppose the defendant’s motion to enforce the alleged settlement and was asking for reconsideration of the trial court’s dismissal of her case against the defendant based on the settlement.

In the opinion of the reviewing appellate tribunal, the motion judge’s order was “brief” and “[did] not reflect the basis upon which he ruled.” Because the motion judge had merely stated that he saw no reason to depart from a different judge’s opinion in the sister’s parallel case, the appellate court was unable to discern the factual or legal predicate upon which the judge ruling on the motion in the plaintiff’s case had based his opinion. Without such a foundation, the appeals court could not determine whether the judge had erred in his opinion; hence a remand was necessary.

Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

At The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, our knowledgeable Cape Cod personal injury attorneys work hard to be effective communicators with each and every client. Our goal is to provide the most effective legal service that we can in each case that we handle and to always strive towards the best outcome for our clients. To schedule a free consultation regarding your personal injury claim, call us now at 888-262-6664. Because there are important deadlines that must be met in these types of cases, it is important to seek legal consultation as soon as possible; if you have COVID-19 concerns, please know that we are working to serve and protect our clients in a manner that both preserves legal rights and minimizes health risks.

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