Lopez v. Podgurski
Judge Andrew Tarantino Jr.
Poitan moved to restore this personal injury action to the trial calendar after the court was notified the suit was settled before trial. After several adjournments, Poitan's attorney notified the court by letter that the matter was settled for $5,000. The court noted it appeared Poitan did not have a full understanding of the settlement offer as she misunderstood the offer was "net" to her, as opposed to "gross." The court opined if the attorney's signed letter of settlement bound the client to its terms. The court found it did, noting counsel had apparent authority to settle the action on Poitan's behalf. It also found no showing of fraud, collusion, mistake or any other ground to invalidate the contract, noting Poitan's misunderstanding with her counsel about the difference between net and gross proceeds was insufficient to constitute a mistake. The court also stated a misunderstanding did not establish a meritorious action, noting the prejudice to defendant in granting the motion outweighed the prejudice to Poitan if the motion was denied. Hence, it found counsel's letter to the court was a stipulation that was binding upon Poitan, and in the absence of any reasonable excuse to invalid the contract, the motion was denied.