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Baldwin Acupuncture, P.C. As Assignee of Bernardo Gomez and Pablo Jimenez, Appellant v. Allstate Ins. Co.

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE TERM: 2nd, 11th and 13th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS


August 4, 2011

BALDWIN ACUPUNCTURE, P.C. AS ASSIGNEE OF BERNARDO GOMEZ AND PABLO JIMENEZ, APPELLANT,
v.
ALLSTATE INS. CO., RESPONDENT.

Appeal from an order of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County (Kathryn E. Freed, J.), entered December 1, 2009.

Baldwin Acupuncture, P.C. v Allstate Ins. Co.

Decided on August 4, 2011

Appellate Term, Second Department

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

PRESENT: PESCE, P.J., WESTON and STEINHARDT, JJ

The order granted a motion by defendant for the entry of a satisfaction of a default judgment to the extent of vacating the default judgment and deeming the action settled pursuant to a stipulation of settlement entered into by the parties, and denied plaintiff's cross motion to vacate the stipulation of settlement.

ORDERED that the order is modified by striking the provision vacating the default judgment and by providing that defendant's motion for an order directing entry of a satisfaction of the judgment pursuant to CPLR 5021 is granted; as so modified, the order is affirmed, without costs.

In this action by a provider to recover assigned first-party no-fault benefits, the parties entered into a stipulation of settlement following the entry of a default judgment against defendant. After defendant paid plaintiff the amount called for in the stipulation of settlement, defendant moved to compel plaintiff to execute and file a satisfaction of judgment pursuant to CPLR 5020 or, in the alternative, for the court to direct the clerk to make an entry that the judgment had been satisfied pursuant to CPLR 5021. Plaintiff opposed the motion and cross-moved to vacate the stipulation of settlement, alleging that it had been entered into by mistake or through fraudulent inducement. The Civil Court granted defendant's motion to the extent of vacating the default judgment and deeming the action settled. The court also denied plaintiff's cross motion, holding that the stipulation had been signed by the principal owner of plaintiff's firm and that the checks which defendant had issued in payment of the amount called for in the settlement had been cashed by plaintiff's firm. Plaintiff appeals, contending that the stipulation of settlement should have been vacated and, in any event, that there was no basis for the Civil Court to have vacated the default judgment, as this relief was never requested by defendant.

Stipulations of settlement are favored by the courts and not lightly cast aside (see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d 224, 230 [1984]; Matter of Galasso, 35 NY2d 319, 321 [1974]; Racanelli Constr. Co., Inc. v Tadco Constr. Corp., 50 AD3d 875 [2008]). Pursuant to CPLR 2104, when a stipulation is reduced to a writing and signed by a party or its attorney, it is binding upon that party. Furthermore, strict enforcement of a stipulation of settlement not only serves the interest of efficient dispute resolution but also is essential to the management of court calendars and the integrity of the litigation process (see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d at 230; Racanelli Constr. Co., Inc. v Tadco Constr. Corp., 50 AD3d at 876). Only where there is cause sufficient to invalidate a contract, such as fraud, collusion, mistake or accident, will a party be relieved from the consequences of a stipulation made during litigation (see Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d at 230; Matter of Frutiger, 29 NY2d 143, 149-150 [1971]; Racanelli Constr. Co., Inc. v Tadco Constr. Corp., 50 AD3d at 876; Nigro v Nigro, 44 AD3d 831 [2007]; Davidson v Metropolitan Tr. Auth., 44 AD3d 819 [2007]).

Contrary to plaintiff's contentions, plaintiff did not establish that the stipulation of settlement had been entered into through mutual mistake, nor has there been a sufficient showing that there existed a unilateral mistake on the part of plaintiff of a nature that would warrant the vacatur of the stipulation (see Matter of Marquez, 299 AD2d 551 [2002]). Moreover, we do not find that there has been a sufficient showing to demonstrate that defendant fraudulently induced plaintiff to enter into the stipulation of settlement (see Matter of Kaplan, 141 AD2d 545 [1988]). We, however, agree with plaintiff that neither the stipulation nor defendant's motion called for the vacatur of the default judgment. Accordingly, the order is modified by striking the provision thereof vacating the default judgment and by providing that defendant's motion for an order directing entry of a satisfaction of the judgment pursuant to CPLR 5021 is granted.

Pesce, P.J., Weston and Steinhardt, JJ., concur.

Decision Date: August 04, 2011

20110804

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