South Carolina Appellate Court Reviews Case Arising from Confidential Settlement Agreement Entered in 2002

When a South Carolina personal injury lawsuit is filed, it can be resolved in several different ways. The plaintiff’s claim may be dismissed – either voluntarily, or by the court – thus ending the litigation. The matter may proceed to trial, and a judge may enter judgment upon a jury’s verdict. Of course, the majority of cases are ultimately settled out of court (and many others are settled without formal litigation ever having been filed). But what happens when a settlement agreement is not honored? What recourse does someone have when they don’t get the benefit of the bargain into which they entered?

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff originally filed suit against the defendant back in 1998. Although the court’s opinion did not disclose the exact nature of the dispute between the parties, the dispute was apparently settled through some type of mediation that occurred in 2002. As part of the settlement, the defendant signed a “confession of judgment” in the amount of $350,000 plus post-judgment interest. In exchange, the plaintiff released all of his claims and dismissed his case with prejudice.

In 2013, the plaintiff filed the confession of judgment signed by the defendant, along with a partial satisfaction of judgment stating that the defendant had paid the plaintiff a total of $335,000 but that an additional $15,000 was owed. The defendant answered that he had actually paid the plaintiff in excess of $350,000 and owed nothing further. According to the plaintiff, however, the confidential settlement agreement required the defendant to pay a total sum of $400,000 ($50,000 upfront, followed by annual installment payments of $35,000 secured by the confession of judgment). The trial court found in favor of the defendant.

Decision of the South Carolina Court of Appeals

The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court was correct in deciding that a former version of South Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 43(k) applied to the confidential settlement agreement between the parties because the settlement agreement was signed before the rule was amended. Since the settlement agreement did not comply with the prior version of the rule, the agreement was not binding on the court. Under the version of the rule that existed at the time the settlement was devised, an agreement between counsel affecting the proceedings in an action was only binding if it was reduced to the form of a consent order or written stipulation signed by counsel and entered in the record, or if it was made in open court and noted upon the record.

Talk to a Knowledgeable South Carolina Lawyer

At the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices, with offices conveniently located in Spartanburg and Greenville, we handle a variety of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including motor vehicle accidents, nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, product liability, and insurance company bad-faith claims. For a free consultation regarding your accident, injury, or wrongful death matter, call us today at 864-582-5118.

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