GLORIA ANNETTE FORD v. LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE

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Court of Appeals of Texas, Dallas.

GLORIA ANNETTE FORD, Appellant v. LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE, Appellee

No. 05-08-01571-CV

Decided: January 29, 2010

Before Justices FitzGerald, Murphy, and Myers

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Opinion By Justice Murphy

Gloria Annette Ford, appearing pro se, appeals the trial court's “agreed final judgment” rendered after Ford filed her “motion to withdraw agreed agreement at mediation.”   In five issues, Ford contends the trial court erred in approving the settlement agreement and disregarding Ford's motion to withdraw.   The law is well-settled that a trial court cannot render an agreed judgment after a party has withdrawn its consent to a settlement;  we therefore reverse the trial court's judgment and issue this memorandum opinion pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 47.4.

Appellee Liberty Mutual Insurance provided workers' compensation insurance coverage for Ford's employer.   Ford qualified for supplemental income benefits as a result of her slip and fall at work.   Following a benefit review conference and contested case hearing conducted as a result of a dispute regarding Ford's entitlement to seventh quarter benefits, the hearing officer for the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation concluded Ford was not entitled to those benefits.   The hearing officer also determined Ford had not been entitled to supplemental income benefits for twelve consecutive months.

After the appeals panel for the workers' compensation division affirmed the hearing officer's decision, Ford filed suit against Liberty Mutual and others,1 seeking judicial review of the panel's decision.   Nearly two years later, Ford and Liberty Mutual mediated and signed a settlement agreement.   On September 23, 2008, days after signing the September 19 agreement, Ford filed a “motion to withdraw agreed agreement at mediation 9/19/2008.”   Following a hearing, the trial court denied Ford's motion to withdraw and thereafter signed an “agreed final judgment” on November 20, 2008, approving the mediated settlement.   Ford appeals that judgment.

In five issues, Ford complains that (1) her suit was based on seventh quarter supplemental income benefits only, (2) the judgment contains other quarters not authorized, (3) the court failed to grant Ford's motion to withdraw and to grant other relief when Liberty Mutual failed “to show” at the hearing on Ford's motion to withdraw, (4) Liberty Mutual misled the mediator and the court by injecting other quarters into the negotiations, and (5) Liberty Mutual made no objection disputing Ford's motion to withdraw.   Liberty Mutual argues in response that Ford failed to meet her burden of proof to set aside the signed settlement agreement and that Ford has failed on appeal to present a record of the hearing on her motion to withdraw.

The law in Texas is well-settled that a party may revoke its consent to a settlement agreement at any time before judgment is rendered on the agreement.  S & A Rest. Corp. v. Leal, 892 S.W.2d 855, 857 (Tex.1995) (per curiam);  Quintero v. Jim Walter Homes, Inc., 654 S.W.2d 442, 444 (Tex.1983).   When the trial court has knowledge that a party does not consent to a judgment, the trial court should not enforce the agreement by making it a judgment of the court.  Quintero, 654 S.W.2d at 444.   A judgment rendered after one of the parties revokes its consent is void.  S & A Rest., 892 S.W.2d at 857 (citing Samples Exterminators v. Samples, 640 S.W.2d 873, 875 (Tex.1982) (per curiam)).   Once consent is withdrawn, the settlement agreement must be enforced through the same methods for enforcement of other contracts.   Mantas v. Fifth Court of Appeals, 925 S.W.2d 656, 658 (Tex.1996) (per curiam).

Here, the record is clear that Ford's motion to withdraw was filed within days of the mediated settlement agreement.   The trial court not only had knowledge of the withdrawal, but held a hearing on the motion and denied it.   Under the established case law, no trial court approval is required when a party withdraws its consent to a settlement, and the trial court erred by proceeding in contravention of Ford's motion to withdraw.

We sustain Ford's issues to the extent she complains about the trial court's entry of an “agreed final judgment”following withdrawal of her consent to the settlement agreement and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.   To the extent Ford complains about the settlement agreement, we do not reach those issues.

081571F.P05

FOOTNOTES

FN1. Ford also sued her employer, the Medical Center of Mesquite, where she worked as a nurse, and the workers' compensation division.   The trial court granted pleas to the jurisdiction filed by both parties.   Ford did not appeal those rulings..  FN1. Ford also sued her employer, the Medical Center of Mesquite, where she worked as a nurse, and the workers' compensation division.   The trial court granted pleas to the jurisdiction filed by both parties.   Ford did not appeal those rulings.

MARY MURPHY JUSTICE

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