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Settlement Is Binding Despite Claim that Attorney Lacked Client Authorization

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently continued its trend of enforcing settlements despite the absence of a signed settlement agreement. In Trevino v. Siler, et al., case no. 330120 (Mich. Ct. App. January 17, 2017), the plaintiff's counsel called defendants' counsel and indicated that the plaintiff would settle his claims for $100,000. Defense counsel responded with an e-mail that confirmed the conversation and attached a settlement agreement for the plaintiff to execute. But the plaintiff never signed the agreement, later claiming that he did not give his attorney authority to settle the claims. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals held that a binding settlement agreement existed. "[I]f an agreement to settle pending litigation satisfies the elements of MCR 2.507, it is binding even if a party subsequently denies that his or her attorney had authority to settle the suit." The agreement must be evidenced in writing and "subscribed by the party against whom the agreement is offered or by that party's attorney" (emphasis added). Therefore, the plaintiff's only remedy was to sue his attorney for professional malpractice. The opinion is another reminder that a binding settlement does not necessarily require a signed agreement.

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