Grubin on August 21, 1996. The agreement was made on the record in open court. In her first letter to the Court, Hohri argued that she should be allowed to "reject" the settlement agreement but did not dispute that she had entered into such an agreement. Only in her second letter to the Court did Hohri claim that she had not believed the oral agreement to be binding. That contention is directly contradicted by the transcript of the conference, which shows that Magistrate Judge Grubin expressly informed Hohri that she could not later change her mind and refuse to settle the case.
Under New York law,
an oral settlement agreement is only binding if it is made in "open court."
N.Y. C.P.L.R. 2104; Dolgin v. Dolgin (In re Dolgin Eldert Corp.), 31 N.Y.2d 1, 8-10, 334 N.Y.S.2d 833, 838-40, 286 N.E.2d 228 (1972); Monaghan v. SZS 33 Associates, L.P., 73 F.3d 1276, 1283 (2d Cir. 1996). "Open court" within the meaning of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 2104 "is a technical term that refers to the formalities attendant upon documenting the fact of the stipulation and its terms, and not to the particular location of the courtroom itself." Popovic v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., 180 A.D.2d 493, 493, 579 N.Y.S.2d 399, 400 (1st Dep't 1992). That is, the importance of the "open court" requirement is to ensure that there are "some formal entries, if only in the clerk's minutes, to memorialize the critical litigation events." Dolgin, 31 N.Y.2d at 10, 334 N.Y.S.2d at 840; see also Graffeo v. Brenes, 85 A.D.2d 656, 445 N.Y.S.2d 223 (2d Dep't 1981) (clerk's minutes sufficient). In this case, a complete transcript of the proceeding documents the oral settlement agreement between MPF and Hohri. Therefore, the requirements of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 2104 are met.
Settlement agreements are strongly favored in New York and may not be lightly cast aside. Rivera v. State, 115 A.D.2d 431, 432, 496 N.Y.S.2d 230, 231 (1st Dep't 1985); Galasso v. Galasso (In re Galasso), 35 N.Y.2d 319, 321, 361 N.Y.S.2d 871, 872, 320 N.E.2d 618 (1974). Afterthought or change of mind are not sufficient to justify rejecting a settlement. Rivera, 115 A.D.2d at 432, 496 N.Y.S.2d at 231 (1st Dep't 1985); Golden Arrow Films, Inc. v. Standard Club of California, Inc., 38 A.D.2d 813, 328 N.Y.S.2d 901 (1st Dep't 1972). A court may relieve a party of the consequences of a settlement agreement "only where there is cause sufficient to invalidate a contract, such as fraud, collusion, mistake or accident . . . ." Rivera, 115 A.D.2d at 432, 496 N.Y.S.2d at 231.
Hohri argues that: (1) she was suffering from postpartum depression and therefore was in an unstable mental and emotional state; and (2) she felt pressured, overwhelmed and intimidated. There is no evidence, however, that Hohri's depression caused her to lack contractual capacity or that her agreement was the result of impulsive or irrational behavior beyond her control. As the court stated in Blatt v. Manhattan Medical Group, P.C., 131 A.D.2d 48, 51, 519 N.Y.S.2d 973, 975 (1st Dep't 1987), "if mere depression, serious or otherwise, can be considered a valid reason to avoid a contract . . . then the courts will be confronted with a plethora of claims by litigants declaring that they were too depressed or unhappy to know what they were doing and should, thus, be relieved, from the effects of their conduct." Treating depression as a basis for avoiding a contract would undermine "the fundamental integrity and reliability of contracts." Id.
Furthermore, there is no evidence in the record of any intimidation or coercion. The transcript of the proceeding shows that Magistrate Judge Grubin encouraged the parties to settle but did not unduly pressure or coerce Hohri. A court may not set aside a settlement where allegations of duress are not substantiated by the record. Juhasz v. New York City Transit Authority, 49 A.D.2d 730, 730-31, 372 N.Y.S.2d 664, 665 (1st Dep't 1975) (per curiam); Bernstein v. Salvatore, 62 A.D.2d 945, 946, 404 N.Y.S.2d 12, 13 (1st Dep't 1978).
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion to confirm the oral settlement agreement of August 21, 1996 is granted. Although it is not necessary to reach the cross-motions for summary judgment, plaintiff has raised genuine issues of material fact that preclude the granting of Hohri's motion.
Dated: New York, New York
March 4, 1997
MIRIAM GOLDMAN CEDARBAUM
United States District Judge