We’ve blogged about translation of international business contracts and about professional legal and corporate translation services in the context of international family law. In the recent case Williams v. Kansas City Title Loan Co., the court held that a mediated settlement agreement was unenforceable because it did not subsist in writing. This is in contrast to other cases that have ruled that written agreements are not needed to enforce a mediated settlement – which goes to show the importance of carefully researching the case law and rules for the particular jurisdiction you are mediating in, even if this means having a foreign language translation of the relevant decisions and statutes.
In Williams, the plaintiff participated in a court-ordered mediation that resulted in what both the mediator and the defendant thought was an agreement. However, the plaintiff and their attorney left the mediation prior to signing the actual agreement, stating that they would be ‘right back’. However, after an hour it was clear they were not coming back, so the defendant, the defendant’s counsel and the mediator signed the agreement.
When defendant filed a motion for enforcement, the trial court ruled in their favor. The appellate court reversed, relying on the enabling statute, which provides that settlement in court-ordered mediations “shall be by a written document setting out the essential terms of the agreement executed after the termination of the mediation”. This could mean that written agreements are only required for court-ordered mediations. However, it is probably better to follow the old adage: “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.