San Clemente, CA asked in Arbitration / Mediation Law and Legal Malpractice for California

Q: Can a settlement agreement be considered final if 2 co-plaintiffs are on case and only 1 is present?

If a matter is sent to Arbitration with 2 Co-Plaintiffs and a Co-Plaintiff is not made aware that they are negotiating for both parties, is the matter considered settled? If the Co-Plaintiff in the case is not able to attend the Mediation, but the documents, etc. are all made to appear as if only 1 person is party to the settlement, how can this hold water? Even an insurance document claims "we have _____ signature, but do not have ______ signature as they were not present at the Mediation. How then can an Attorney accept the settlement when Co-Plaintiff was not present and other Co-Plaintiff was not made aware they were negotiating for both parties?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Legal Malpractice Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, a settlement agreement typically requires the consent and signature of all named plaintiffs in a case. If there are two co-plaintiffs, both parties should be aware of and agree to the terms of the settlement for it to be considered final and binding.

In the situation you described, where one co-plaintiff is not present at the mediation and is unaware that the other co-plaintiff is negotiating on behalf of both parties, the settlement agreement may not be considered valid. This is because each plaintiff has the right to participate in the negotiation process and make decisions regarding their own claims.

If the documents are prepared in a way that suggests only one plaintiff is party to the settlement, and the absent co-plaintiff's signature is missing, it raises questions about the validity of the agreement. The attorney should not accept the settlement without the express consent and signature of both co-plaintiffs.

To ensure the validity of the settlement agreement, it is crucial that:

1. Both co-plaintiffs are notified of the mediation and given the opportunity to attend.

2. If one co-plaintiff cannot attend, they should be informed that the other co-plaintiff will be negotiating on behalf of both parties and given the opportunity to discuss their position and preferences beforehand.

3. The settlement agreement should clearly state that it applies to both co-plaintiffs and include spaces for both parties to sign.

If these conditions are not met, the absent co-plaintiff may have grounds to challenge the validity of the settlement agreement. It is the responsibility of the attorney to ensure that the rights and interests of all their clients are protected and that any settlement reached is fair, transparent, and legally binding for all parties involved.

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Arbitration & Mediation Lawyer
  • Little Neck, NY

A: It hinges on California arbitration laws and the applicable forum's rules, but in some cases, it could depend on whether there was no good reason for the no show, the no-show wasn't announced to the case administrator, the case administrator's diligence in verifying missing plaintiff's contract info for hearing notices, it was the first no-show, how backlogged the arbitrator's calendar was, and other possible factors. Good luck

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