The plaintiff brought an action seeking LTD benefits, along with extra-contractual damages. The parties attended at mandatory mediation. A settlement agreement was executed at the mediation.
Following the mediation there was a break-down in the relationship between the plaintiff and her counsel, resulting in counsel removing himself from the record. The plaintiff refused to sign a release and took the position the issue of extra-contractual damages had not been resolved. The insurer brought a motion to enforce the settlement.
In finding the settlement should be enforced Justice Maranger noted, among other things:
- the mediator who conducted the mediation was “well regarded and experienced”;
- the plaintiff was represented by counsel throughout the proceeding;
- the mediation took six hours;
- the settlement agreement was drafted by counsel for both parties;
- the settlement agreement stated that all claims would be resolved, and there would be a dismissal of the action;
- the settlement agreement provided for the execution of a release by the plaintiff; and
- the plaintiff read and understood the settlement agreement, prior to signing it.
Justice Maranger found that the wording of the settlement agreement was “clear…unequivocal and not subject to interpretation”, and “the plaintiff’s later refusal to sign a full and final release can only be explained by her changing her mind.” Further, even if the plaintiff had misunderstood the terms of the agreement, her counsel was clearly acting with her authority to resolve the matter.
On an interesting note, the motions judge went even further, and stated that, on the evidence before the court, the settlement was reasonable, and “was in all likelihood the result that would have been achieved had the litigation proceeded to trial. The plaintiff’s claims for punitive damages and distress damages were never likely to succeed.”
The motions judge also noted the importance of mandatory mediation in the efficient resolution of litigation. As stated by Justice Winkler: “Mediation affords many parties an opportunity to access the civil justice system quickly and at relatively low cost.” Cases such as Boulanger illustrate that the judiciary are willing to recognize this when considering the issue of enforcing agreements made at mediation.