What is needed in NJ to Settle?
A settlement was reached between one of dressage’s most infamous horse professionals and the Morgans, his former clients. That was until Cesar Parra’s attorney tried to add new conditions to the settlement after the deal was done.
So why won’t Parra pony up the mutually agreed upon funds?
According to documents, Kentucky attorney, Joel Turner attempted to insert additional terms into the settlement – specifically confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions that were never mentioned during settlement negotiations, let alone agreed to. The Plaintiffs refused to be bound by the new terms and the defendants “attempted to renege on the settlement agreement.”
According to New Jersey law, all that is required to settle a case is an agreement for a settlement amount in exchange for being released from the lawsuit. A formally worded document and release are not necessary for the deal to be enforced. The courts have readily found that a settlement agreement “voluntarily entered into, is binding upon the parties, whether or not made in the presence of the court and even in the absence of writing.”Turner allegedly sent the same language on four separate occasions beginning in September 2012 and culminating on September 5, 2013, with the following proposed language:
The Morgans, who have been litigating the matter for years, agreed to the settlement on September 11, the given deadline.
On September 15, Turner agreed to move forward, but with unexpected additional terms.
“Included will be certain provisions addressing the confidentiality of the terms of the settlement and the agreement as between the parties about some sort of mutually agreeable statement, if any is to be issued to anyone including without limitation the press or any websites, about the settlement. Please understand that this agreement will be straightforward and will not represent a significant departure from the norm, but under the acrimonious circumstances of this case, it will address the additional concerns enumerated above.”
Turner was notified that the Morgans “will not agree to any additional settlement terms, confidentiality, non-disparagement or otherwise, not originally agreed to.”
That is when Turner’s southern gentility allegedly ended. Turner alleges the Plaintiffs’ attorney, Anthony Seijas, missed the agreed-upon deadline to respond and the offer was withdrawn as a result of that failure. Turner states,
“Usually I try to maintain some gentility in my practice, as we southern lawyers all wont to do [sic]. You have tested my patience on more than one occasion and I have not expressed any overt displeasure. Your posturing in this instance has gone over the line. I suggest you take a moment to reflect and reconsider. If you want to resolve this issue and work together to prepare a settlement document acceptable to all parties, a hat in the hand. You ignore your exposure here and you shouldn’t.”
Remarkably, Turner has never entered a legal appearance into this case pro hac vice, as required by New Jersey law, despite conducting the settlement discussions, holding funds in escrow, and ultimately controlling the case. In October 2012, the court ordered escrow funds of money earmarked for the Morgans to be moved from Kentucky to New Jersey. The Plaintiffs still have never received confirmation of the Defendants’ compliance, according to this most recent filing.
According to one attorney we spoke with, it is settlement 101 to memorialize each and every term of a settlement offer or demand, in writing, to ensure no confusion exists. In the absence of any terms conveyed, then no such terms shall be added later.
The suit began in 2011 when the Morgan’s filed against Parra, Katie Riley, Parra’s head trainer, and Piaffe Performance Inc. The suit alleges deceptive trade practices and fraud surrounding the sale and purchase of imported Grand Prix dressage horses.