Agreements reached within the context of litigation are typically memorialized in written form and are known as "Stipulations of Settlement." Like any contract, these documents will be enforced in accordance with their terms, particularly in the absence of any vagueness, ambiguity or other significant irregularity. And, usually, courts will refrain from "reading into" the document or engaging in creative interpretations.
In Aivaliotis v Continental Broker-Dealer Corp., the parties settled their employment dispute by way of an agreement which provided for plaintiffs to remit three payments to defendant in the total amount of $120,000. In the event an installment was missed, the parties could "pursue their claims and counterclaims." When plaintiffs subsequently failed to remit payment, the Nassau County Supreme Court granted defendant's motion for the entry of a money judgment totalling $120,000 as against the plaintiffs.
Since the Supreme Court fashioned a remedy which had not been expressly reseved by the litigants, the Appellate Division, Second Department, vacated the judgment on appeal, noting as follows:
Contrary to the defendant's contention, its only recourse in the event the plaintiffs defaulted in their payment obligation under the stipulation was to pursue its counterclaims. Thus, the Supreme Court should not have granted that branch of the defendant's motion which was for leave to enter judgment against the plaintiffs in the settlement amount since to do so "impl[ied] a term which the parties themselves failed to insert" in the stipulation
Caveat stipulators! Sometimes you get what you bargained for.
For a copy of the Appellate Division's decision in Aivaliotis v. Continental Broker-Dealer Corp., please click on the following link: