Christina Lewis appeals a district court order confirming a
settlement agreement and dismissing the case with prejudice. We
The parties have stipulated to the facts. Lewis and Forest
Gilbert were involved in an automobile accident, which resulted
in Lewis bringing a personal injury action against Gilbert. After
discovery but prior to trial, Gilbert offered to settle the case
for $11,500. The offer was made to Lewis' attorney, David Troup,
who relayed the offer to Lewis. After discussing the offer at
length, Lewis authorized Troup to accept the settlement. Troup
called Gilbert's counsel and orally accepted the offer. Gilbert's
counsel cancelled the scheduled jury trial and sent Troup a
proposed journal entry of dismissal and release of all claims,
which Troup forwarded to Lewis. Lewis refused to sign the
proposed journal entry and release and told Troup she had changed
mind and would not accept the settlement offer. Gilbert filed a
motion to dismiss and for confirmation of settlement agreement,
which was granted by the court. The court found that Troup held
extensive discussions with Lewis regarding the settlement offer
and that Lewis unequivocally gave Troup authority to settle the
litigation exactly as it was settled.
Lewis argues the settlement agreement was not binding because
it was not reduced to writing. She further argues the trial court
erred by refusing to require compliance with K.S.A.
60-241(a)(1)(ii), which requires that a stipulation of dismissal
be signed by all the parties and filed.
The parties are in agreement as to the facts. When the record
on appeal consists of stipulated facts and documentary evidence,
this court has the same opportunity on review as the trial court
and may examine and consider the evidence in the same manner as
did the trial court. In re Estate of Thompson, 226 Kan. 437,
440, 601 P.2d 1105 (1979).
Unless required by statute or court rule, settlement agreements
do not have to be reduced to writing to be valid. 15A Am.Jur.2d,
Compromise and Settlement § 10, p. 782. The Kansas courts> have
found that an oral settlement agreement is binding. In Nauman v.
Kenosha Auto Transport Co., 186 Kan. 305, 349 P.2d 931 (1960),
the defendant agreed to pay the Naumans $2,500 for damages
sustained as a result of a nuisance caused by the defendant's
sewage disposal system. The settlement agreement was entered into
orally between the attorneys for both parties. Shortly after
entering the agreement, the defendant's attorney informed counsel
for the Naumans that his client had changed his mind, and the
settlement was off. The trial court found an agreement had been
made and awarded the Naumans $2,500. The Supreme Court affirmed,
"The law favors the compromise and settlement of
disputes, and when parties, in the absence of any
element of fraud or bad faith, enter into an
agreement settling and adjusting a dispute, neither
party is permitted to repudiate it. (Lewis v.
Kimball, 103 Kan. 173, 173 P. 279; and
Massey-Harris Co. v. Horn, 132 Kan. 206,
294 P. 666.) After the parties had agreed upon a compromise
of a bona fide dispute, the courts> will not, in the
absence of any element of fraud or bad faith, look
into the merits of the original controversy to
discover which was in the right." 186 Kan. at 310.
In Connor v. Hammer, 201 Kan. 22, 439 P.2d 116 (1968), the
parties were involved in an automobile accident, which resulted
in the death of Mrs. Connor. The parties orally agreed to settle
the case, after which the attorney representing Connor's estate
confirmed the settlement agreement by letter, which stated, "we
are accepting your settlement offer of compromise . . . for the
sum of $1500.00." 201 Kan. at 23. Later, the plaintiffs changed
their minds and tried to repudiate the settlement. The court
enforced the settlement, noting, "The law favors the compromise
and settlement of disputes and when parties, in the absence of
any element of fraud or bad faith, enter into an agreement
settling and adjusting a dispute, neither party is permitted to
repudiate it." 201 Kan. at 24.
Settlement agreements need not be in writing to be enforceable
under Kansas case law. Once entered into, settlement agreements
should be enforced absent a finding of fraud or bad faith. Here,
Lewis does not allege fraud or bad faith but rather simply
changed her mind with regard to the settlement. Accordingly, the
oral agreement entered into between Lewis and Gilbert should be
Gilbert directs attention to several other state court
decisions, which support the conclusion that a valid settlement
agreement exists. In Jannarone v. W.T. Co., 65 N.J. Super. 472
168 A.2d 72
(1961), the parties were involved in an automobile
accident. The plaintiff through her counsel orally settled the
suit for $250. Later, plaintiffs counsel attempted to repudiate
the agreement based on a change in judgment as to the value of
the claim. The court stated:
"There was no justification for this repudiation by
counsel of a settlement fairly and openly negotiated
and arrived at. . . .
"The settlement of litigation ranks high in our
public policy. [Citations omitted.] There is no good
reason why an executory agreement between the
parties, fairly arrived at, to settle pending
litigation, should not be enforced in the cause,
subject to the discretion of the court." 65 N.J.
Super. at 476-77.
For other cases reaching a similar result see Herron v. City of
Chicago, 618 F. Supp. 1405
(N.D. Ill. 1985); Gregory v.
Hamilton, 77 Cal.App.3d 213, 142 Cal.Rptr. 563 (1978).