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Settlement of Suit Cannot Be Agreement to Agree
Description Parties asserted to judge that they had reached a settlement before trial, the terms of which were read into the record. Prior to judgment entry, the parties began to disagree about the terms. Ohio Supreme Court held that no settlement existed, the trial court must hear the matter.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Settlement, Contract
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Rulli sued Fan Co. in a financial dispute. Prior to trial, counsel for both parties told the judge they reached a settlement to resolve all matters in the dispute. The terms were read into the record. The judge said he would "mark the case called for hearing, case settled and dismissed" and gave counsel 21 days to submit a separate judgment entry. No separate entry was ever filed and the parties did not complete a formal agreement. The parties then began to argue over what the terms of the settlement actually were and returned to court.
Trial Court Decision The parties were held to have reached the settlement read into the record. The court would take no testimony from Rulli, who objected to the terms. He appealed.
Supreme Court Decision Reversed and remanded. A trial judge cannot force parties into settlement. "The result of a valid settlement is a contract between parties, requiring a meeting of the minds as well as an offer and an acceptance thereof." While the terms of the proposed settlement read into the record were clear, no formal agreement was executed and the parties differed as to the meaning of the purported agreement. The language read into the record reflects "merely an agreement to make a contract." When the meaning of a settlement is disputed, the trial judge must hold a hearing prior to entering judgment.
Citation Rulli v. Fan Co., 683 N.E.2d 337 (Sup. Ct., Ohio, 1997)

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