New York Law Journal "Oral Settlements in Open Court Enforceable Without Follow-on Writing" Thomas E.L. Dewey

May 25, 2017

An agreement to settle a case is generally not binding until it is put into writing and either signed or entered as a court order. But as a recent case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York illustrates, there is an important exception: Agreements made between counsel in open court are enforceable, even if one party changes her mind before an anticipated written agreement is complete.


In Doe v. Kogut, No. 15-CV-07726 (SN), 2017 WL 1287144, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. April 6, 2017), the plaintiff sought to scrap a settlement reached as part of a conference with Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn. Among other things, she asserted duress on the part of her attorney, whom she had since fired. But the plaintiff's own statements in a colloquy with the judge—in which she affirmed her voluntary intention to enter a binding settlement contract—made the settlement enforceable.

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