January-Report - page 9

January 2013 CBA REPORT
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feature article
hearing should not be divested in denial
of enforcement cases. Thus whether to
hold a hearing before denying enforce-
ment of a disputed agreement is a matter
best left squarely within the trial court’s
vested discretion to govern discovery as
it sees fit. With respect to the entry of
judgment denying enforcement of a dis-
puted settlement agreement,
Rulli
did not
abrogate the Ohio Civil Rules concerning
the trial court’s authority to enter judg-
ment. That is, upon a summary-judgment
motion Ohio trial courts may still
enter
judgment denying enforcement
against
the party contending that a settlement
agreement existed — even upon a pend-
ing motion for a
Rulli
hearing. After all,
summary judgment may only be entered
if no genuine issues of material fact exist
and judgment is appropriate as a mat-
ter of law. A blanket ruling, such as that
implied in
Myatt v. Myatt, supra
, ham-
pers judicial economy when no genuine
issue of material fact exists or where the
alleged evidence is not probative of the
existence of a disputed settlement agree-
ment or its terms.
It makes sense that the party seek-
ing enforcement of a disputed settlement
should bear the burden to proffer and
identify extrinsic evidence demonstrat-
ing the existence of an agreement or
clarifying disputed terms. In practice, the
party seeking enforcement of a disputed
settlement agreement should identify
evidence that it believes to exist that
might be instructive upon the question
whether an agreement was reached and
request an evidentiary hearing before the
trial court. Significantly, if a party does
not request an evidentiary hearing in
the trial court, it waives the opportunity
to argue on appeal that the trial court
erred in failing to hold a
Rulli
hearing.
9
Of course if the party requesting a
Rulli
hearing cannot articulate what evidence
exists, or is believed to exist, demonstrat-
ing a genuine issue of material fact that
may be gleaned from a hearing, then it
would be difficult to argue that the trial
court erred by failing to hold the hearing
before denying enforcement and entering
judgment.
What if extrinsic and probative
evidence of an agreement is asserted
and the trial court still refuses to hold
a hearing and enters judgment denying
enforcement? An Ohio appellate court
might reverse such a ruling if probative
evidence was alleged to exist substantiat-
ing the existence of a disputed settlement
agreement or clarifying its terms, and the
trial court was aware of such evidence
but denied an evidentiary hearing and
entered judgment denying enforcement.
A trial court should not ignore evidence
instrutive on the existence of a disputed
settlement agreement if such tangible
and probative evidence in fact exists.
10
Again, in cases where enforcement of a
disputed settlement agreement is denied
and judgment entered, the trial court is
in the best position to determine whether
a hearing is necessary to gather evidence
demonstrating the existence of a valid
settlement agreement — the terms of
which must be reasonably certain and
clear. Of course, that an evidentiary
hearing is necessary to determine dis-
puted terms probably militates against a
finding that such terms are sufficiently
certain and clear to deem an agreement
to have been reached.
If a court denies enforcement of a
disputed settlement agreement and en-
ters judgment, the aggrieved party may
always move for relief from judgment
in the underlying dismissed action. But
should the original dismissal be set aside
when the parties have agreed to dismiss
the lawsuit with prejudice, but failed to
agree on the terms of the conditional
dismissal? What about under the con-
ditional-dismissal language used by the
trial court in
Artisan
: Either party “may,
on good cause shown, within sixty days,
request further action if settlement is not
consummated *** and that on agreement,
and within sixty days, the parties may
submit a supplementary entry outlining
details of the settlement.”
11
Does equity favor a party who before
the deadline expires fails to notify the
court that a signed settlement agreement
has not been consummated? Probably
not, but perhaps a factual scenario could
be posited demonstrating excusable ne-
glect or otherwise justifying Civ.R. 60(B)
relief.
Frederic is an associate at the Drew Law Firm. He is
a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of
Law. Frederic’s areas of practice are commercial and
business related litigation, general litigation, estate
planning, representation of individuals and closely
held businesses, administrative appeals and appellate
practice.
1
Rulli v. Fan Co.
, 79 Ohio St.3d 374, 1997-Ohio-380, 683
N.E.2d 337
2
Id.
3
Artisan v. Beiser
,
et al.
, 12th Dist. No. CA2010-02-039,
2010-Ohio-5427.
4 Erie App. No. E-05053, 2006-Ohio-2119 and
Moore v.
Johnson
(Dec. 11, 1997), Franklin App. No. 96APE11-
1579
5
Rulli v. Fan Co.
, 79 Ohio St.3d 374, 1997-Ohio-380
6
Id.
at ¶41
7 9th Dist. No. CV 2007 12 8610, 2009-Ohio-5796, ¶14.
8
Rulli
supra, citing 1 Corbin on Contracts (Rev.Ed. 1993)
525, Section 4.1;
JamesWard & Co. v.Wick Bros. & Co.
(1867), 17 Ohio St. 159;
Columbus, HockingValley &
Toledo Ry. Co. v. Gaffney
(1901), 65 Ohio St. 104, 61 N.E.
152.
9
Monea v. Campisi
, 2005-Ohio-5215 (5th Dist.)
10
See Moore v. Johnson
(Dec. 11, 1997), 10 Dist. No.
96APE11-1579;
Michelle M.S. v. Eduardo KT.,
6th Dist.
No. E-05-053, 2006-Ohio-2119
11
Artisan v. Beiser et al.
Butler C.P. No. CV2008-11-4889
(Feb. 20, 2009)
.
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