Enforcing a Settlement Agreement in Florida
What is a settlement agreement? What should you know before signing a settlement agreement in West Palm Beach? What should your Florida trial lawyer tell you before you decide to enter into a settlement agreement? What happens if you do not comply with the terms you agreed to in a settlement agreement? In Florida, how can you compel compliance with a settlement agreement?
West Palm Beach Probate Lawyers and Settlement Agreements
At Pankauski Hauser Lazarus, our attorneys handle probate litigation and civil appeals throughout Florida. Although probate litigators frequent the courtroom, they must also handle other aspects of litigation. For example, outside of the courtroom, experienced trial lawyers prepare for depositions, negotiate settlement agreements, prepare petitions, etc.
Another part of a Florida estate lawyer’s job is to provide client’s with legal options. Some clients choose to be more aggressive than others. For example, some clients want to have their day in court at a trial, while others prefer to end their inheritance dispute as quickly as possible.
Some trust, estate, and business lawsuits are resolved with a settlement agreement. An experienced probate lawyer can help you to negotiate settlement terms, explain to you what the terms in the agreement actually mean (prior to you signing), and ensure that the settlement agreement is executed properly.
Enforcing a Settlement Agreement in Florida
Did you sign a settlement agreement to end a recent Florida probate lawsuit? Has the other side complied with the settlement agreement terms? When people enter into a settlement agreement in Florida, they may fail to consider the possibility of the other side not complying with the agreed upon terms. For example, in a settlement agreement, the other side may agree to give you $200,000 in exchange for you ending your lawsuit. What can you do if you dismiss your lawsuit but the other side never gives you the $200,000?
Oftentimes, West Palm Beach probate lawyers will seek approval of a settlement agreement from the Florida court handling the lawsuit. That way, if a party does not comply with the settlement agreement, that party is in contempt of the court and the court typically reserves jurisdiction to enforce the agreement. This means that a motion to compel compliance with a settlement agreement can be filed against them in the Florida court.
However, it is important to note that, in some circumstances, the Florida trial court may lack jurisdiction, preventing you from being able to challenge earlier rulings. A recent Third DCA opinion, Metalonis v. Eastgroup Properties, discusses this issue.
Metalonis v. Eastgroup Properties
Here, the parties had entered into a Florida settlement agreement. Eastgroup would pay Metalonis a sum of money in exchange for his voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice. Eastgroup paid the agreed upon amount but Metalonis did not voluntarily dismiss the action.
Therefore, Eastgroup filed an emergency motion to compel compliance with settlement agreement. The trial court, after a hearing, approved the terms of the agreement, granted the motion to compel and retained jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The court ordered that Metalonis file a notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice in compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement. If Metalonis failed to file the voluntary dismissal, the court would dismiss the case with prejudice.
Metalonis filed the voluntary dismissal. After the case was dismissed, Metalonis tried to appeal the trail court’s order granting the emergency motion to compel. Unfortunately, by filing the voluntary dismissal, rather than preserving his appellate rights by allowing the court to dismiss the case with prejudice, he had lost his chance to appeal.
Voluntary Dismissal and Appeals
Once a party to a Florida lawsuit voluntarily dismisses his or her case, the trial court lacks jurisdiction to do anything. Likewise, once a voluntary dismissal occurs in a Florida lawsuit, no party may appeal a ruling of the trial court, since the Florida district court of appeal lacks jurisdiction to review anything.
The Metalonis v. Eastgroup case teaches those involved in a Florida lawsuit a valuable lesson. If you want relief from an appellate court in Florida, don’t voluntarily dismiss your lawsuit. In other words, do not dismiss your case voluntarily unless you are sure that you want it all to be over.
If you are involved in a probate or trust case in Florida, you should consult with your litigator and a West Palm beach appellate lawyer before making any sort of decisions that could prevent you from later filing a Florida appeal. Most experienced law firms consider a client’s Florida appellate rights at all stages of litigation.
To consult with a West Palm Beach appellate attorney, free of charge, call (561)268-0233 ext.101