Trial court ruling against city to enforce mediation deal reversed

A northern Indiana trial court erred in ordering the city of Plymouth to enforce a mediation settlement agreement to pay a contractor $130,000 because terms of the agreement had not been fulfilled, an appellate panel ruled Wednesday.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Plymouth, remanding the case to the Marshall Circuit Court, which previously had granted the contractor’s motion to enforce a mediation agreement.

The city in February 2017 hired Michael Kinder & Sons Inc. for architectural design and engineering services for a proposed aquatic center. The company sued the city and related entities 13 months later for lack of payment, claiming multiple counts of breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

The parties later were ordered to meditation and reached a settlement agreement in which the city would pay MKS $130,000 contingent on the approval of the city’s redevelopment commission. That contingency language proved dispositive to the panel in City of Plymouth Indiana, and City of Plymouth Redevelopment Commission  v. Michael Kinder & Sons, Inc., 19A-PL-1214.

“… (W)e hold that the mediation agreement required that the Commission approve the settlement offer of $130,000 before Kinder could accept it,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel. “This was a condition precedent supplied by the parties.”

The contractor pointed to language in the agreement’s second paragraph that read, “If the Plaintiff accepts the defendants(’) … offer to pay $130,000 to settle this case then the case shall be settled.”

“Kinder’s reliance on the second numbered paragraph of the agreement as if it were a stand-alone provision is misplaced,” Najam wrote. “Because the Commission did not approve the offer, there was no offer for Kinder to accept. The trial court erred when it granted Kinder’s motion to enforce the parties’ agreement.”

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