Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 93-2-21463-4. Date filed: 07/11/95. Judge signing: Hon. Charles V. Johnson.
Authored by Walter E. Webster. Concurring: William W. Baker, Faye C. Kennedy. WE Concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Webster
WEBSTER, J. -- The judicial system favors settlement. But it also safeguards the settlement process through rules which require a signed, written settlement. In this case, Schrader and the Colvins executed a written settlement of all personal injury claims. Schrader tendered his promised $50,000. After the parties could not agree on the wording of the Colvins' promised release, however, Schrader instructed the Colvins' attorney to hold the $50,000 pending resolution. He then immediately moved the court to enforce the agreement. Because these two acts, taken together, demonstrate that Schrader did not breach the contract, and because he accepted (belatedly) the Colvins' release, we affirm the trial court order enforcing the settlement agreement.
Larry Colvin was injured in an automobile accident while driving a friend's car. He settled with his friend, Hans Ewoldsen, by accepting $25,000 from USAA Insurance. He sued the other driver, Schrader, and later agreed to mediate the dispute. [When these facts refer to Schrader, the reference includes acts by Schrader's insurer, Farmers Insurance Group.]
At the Conclusion of the mediation, the parties signed a "SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT." Schrader agreed to pay $50,000 within seven days to settle Colvin's personal injury claim. Colvin agreed to execute a release:
In return for payment under para. (1), plaintiffs will execute an agreed upon release and hold harmless agreement including provisions for payment by plaintiffs of all medical liens or subrogation rights related to the above pending cause. Also, plaintiffs will execute a dismissal with prejudice and without costs or attorney fees of the above pending cause.
The parties did not resolve Colvin's property damage claim at the mediation.
Six days later, Schrader sent the Colvins' attorney a $50,000 check and a release form. The attorney deposited the check in trust. Schrader then filed a Notice of Settlement of all Claims. Colvin filed an objection: "The property damage claim has yet to be resolved . . ."
With interlineations and deletions, Larry and Marcia Colvin signed the release that Schrader had sent. One week after receiving it, Schrader wrote to the Colvins' attorney, objecting to the deletions and interlineations:
The Colvins did not release Schrader's mother, who had paid the premiums for Schrader's car.
The Colvins refused to release USAA and Hans Ewoldsen, with whom the Colvins had earlier settled. (Schrader wanted this included because Marcia Colvin had not signed the USAA release, although she did sign the Schrader/Farmers release.)
Schrader wanted to change the property damage language which Colvin added to the release. He wanted it to specify that the court would ...