In an action concerning rights in the recordings and story of a deceased singer, appellant license holders engaged in mediation with respondent family during a trial break. On appeal, the court held that the resulting settlement agreement could not be enforced under Code Civ. Proc., § 664.6, because it lacked certain formalities. Appellants sought review of the remand decision of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California.
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On remand, the trial court held that although the settlement agreement was not an enforceable contract, appellants were judicially estopped from denying that they were bound by it. The court of appeal agreed that even if the settlement agreement was not binding, appellants were judicially estopped from denying its enforceability because they represented to the trial court that the case had settled and the trial court discharged the jury in reliance on that representation. There was sufficient evidence to conclude that appellants took two totally inconsistent positions in judicial proceedings—originally that there was an enforceable settlement agreement, but later that the settlement agreement was not enforceable. They were successful in asserting the first position, in that the trial court terminated the trial and discharged the jury. There was no indication that they took the first position as a result of ignorance, fraud, or mistake. Accordingly, the doctrine of judicial estoppel legally could be applied. There was no justifiable reason why a party could not be judicially estopped from denying the enforceability of an agreement that might otherwise be unenforceable.
The court affirmed the judgment.