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Appellate court upholds enforcing settlement agreement

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a Marion Superior judge’s decision to enforce a disputed settlement agreement, finding the parties agreed to the essential terms resolving the issues between them.

Debra Sands filed a complaint in Wisconsin against Menard Inc.; John Menard Jr., the founder and majority owner of the home-improvement chain Menard’s; and Indiana-based companies MH Equity and MH Equity Managing Member, seeking a portion of the assets accumulated while she lived with Menard. MH Equity Managing Member then filed a suit against Sands in Marion Superior Court alleging she breached a fiduciary duty by serving as the attorney for MH Equity and Managing Member and taking $170,000 for legal services when she wasn’t licensed to practice in Indiana.

The attorney for MH Equity and Managing Member, Steven Shockley, contacted Sands’ attorney, Daniel Shulman, and proposed the parties dismiss the claims in the Wisconsin and Indiana courts with prejudice. Shulman accepted the offer and also proposed drafting mutual releases. Shulman had another attorney draft a stipulation for dismissal and a mutual release on the Indiana case and asked Shockley to do the same for the Wisconsin case.

The draft stipulation from Sands’ counsel didn’t include a signature block for Menard or the other Menard defendants, which Shockley took issue with because he didn’t believe that complied with Wisconsin Rule 807.05. Sands’ counsel accepted Shockley’s changes to the stipulation, but didn’t believe that all parties had to execute the stipulation. The parties never signed a final agreement.  

Sands then filed a motion to enforce settlement in the Wisconsin suit and that court entered an order of enforcement. She then moved to enforce the settlement in the Indiana case, which the trial court also granted, noting the settlement agreement should be respected as a matter of comity here.   

Managing Member appealed, arguing that the Marion Superior Court improperly exercised comity. While the trial court purportedly found comity appropriate, it actually addressed the merits of the matter before it and held that an enforceable agreement had been reached, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey in MH Equity Managing Member, LLC v. Debra K. Sands, No. 49A02-1005-CC-495. The Indiana court was enforcing the provision for dismissal of the claim pending in Indiana, which the Wisconsin court had expressly left for disposition here, he continued.

The appellate court also found that a contract had been formed, despite Managing Member’s claim that no contract was formed because the proposal for settlement by respective dismissals weren’t met with “mirror-image” acceptance but a counteroffer including an additional term.

The parties agreed to the essential terms resolving the issues between the parties – to dismiss with prejudice the claims in Wisconsin and Indiana courts. Even though the parties’ communications didn’t “mirror” each other and Sands’ attorney proposed a new term by proposing the execution of releases, Managing Member’s counsel readily agreed to the execution of the releases.

“Two trial courts have made the factual determination that Managing Member and Sands expressed assent to the material term of dismissal with prejudice of the Indiana action against Sands and the Wisconsin action against MH Equity,” wrote Judge Bailey. “The communications of the parties’ attorneys contemplated the execution of mutual releases; thus, they contemplated a subsequent document. However, there is no evidence that the release document would have modified any substantial term of the settlement agreement.”

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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