Legal Interpretation Services, Mediation Agreements as Contracts, and Non-English-Speakers

Multilingual language translation and legal interpreting services are often required during mediation. According to a recent decision by the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a mediation settlement agreement can be enforced over the objections of the defendant. The method used is basic contract analysis.

The case involved a handwritten document entitled “Mediation Settlement Agreement”, in which the defendant agreed to an amount of payment in settlement of all claims, along with some other conditions.

Although the agreement was signed, in the following weeks counsel could not agree on additional terms, and defendant’s counsel declared that no settlement was reached. Plaintiffs moved to compel enforcement.

The court ruled that the agreement was an enforceable contract as the terms were sufficiently specific and agreed upon as to every essential element – basically contract law 101.

This raises interesting questions. Say, for example, if a foreign language speaker argues that they did not fully understand the terms of the agreement and no foreign language translation was provided, under contract law could the mediation agreement be held unenforceable?

Up Next: Online Legal Translation, Mediation and the Importance of the Written Agreement

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