Devil in the Details: the Deal, the Whole Deal and Nothing But the Deal
It's getting very late in hour eleven of the mediation and everyone is tired and cranky. We've agreed upon:
- the total sum of the settlement;
- the period of time over which the settlement will be paid;
- the Stipulated Judgment in the event of default; and,
- the amount of the Stipulated Judgment (far more than the agreed upon settlement sum).
We could put these terms in a skeletal settlement agreement right now; include the "magic language" from Evidence Code section 1123 that will permit enforcement of the mediated agreement; and, let everyone get on the road, onto a plane and into bed.
Because these parties couldn't agree on what year it is, however, no one balks at my suggestion that we write up the entire deal -- settlement agreement with mutual general releases; the Stipulation for the Entry of Judgment; and, the proposed Stipulated Judgment itself.
The first problem is everyone's failure to bring a form Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release, let alone one that included enforceable terms for the entry of a Stipulated Judgment in event of default.
ADVICE??? Carry these documents on a "flash" or "jump" drive whenever you're going to a settlement conference or mediation. Heck, carry them with you to the first day of trial where you might be startled to learn that your adversary is prepared to settle the case right now!
Fortunately, I had access to my own files which contained detailed forms for everything we needed, forms I offered to counsel as guides. I did so only with the express understanding that I did not recommend my own forms as adequate, complete or enforceable.
I'm just the mediator, not the legal representative of the deal in loco parentis.
It's a good thing we made the effort to fully document the deal because it threatened to fall apart over all of the following terms:
- the dismissal of ancillary proceedings
- forbearance from inducing future actions by non-parties
- liquidated damage clauses for the breach of certain critical deal points
- indemnification for future actions if induced by certain of the parties
Each of these items required separate negotiation and compromise and as to each I helped the parties calculate the degree of possible misbehavior by their adversaries and the protections that might "fit" the probable harm. I do not believe the parties would have been able to resolve these terms (as well as others too confidential to mention) without third party assistance. One was so difficult to predict both the series of possible events and potential remedies that we provided for arbitration of that term alone in the event of alleged default.
When we all finally left the building at one in the morning, we had fully completed paperwork, signed by all parties in hand.
And yes, I was the only one present who could type.