Law School Case Brief
Garvin v. Tidwell - 126 So. 3d 1224 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012)
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.730(c) affords trial courts broad powers to grant relief as to settlement agreements reached through mediation. A trial court may rescind an agreement based on unilateral mistake if (1) the mistake did not result from an inexcusable lack of due care, and (2) the defendant's position did not so change in reliance that it would be unconscionable to set aside the agreement. A court will look at whether the unilateral mistake goes to the very substance of the agreement.
A rider filed an action against appellee owner to recover damages for injuries she sustained when she fell off of the owner's horse. The rider alleged that the owner negligently failed to disclose the horse's dangerous propensities. Eventually, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. However, after the parties settled, the rider's counsel discovered a magazine advertisement for a dietary supplement for horses. The advertisement featured the horse and quoted the owner as saying that the horse took the supplement because he was difficult. Thus, the rider sought to rescind the mediated settlement agreement. The Circuit Court denied her motion to rescind the parties' mediated settlement agreement and granted the owner's motion to enforce the settlement. The rider appealed.
In a rider's action against the horse's owner to recover for injuries sustained when she fell off the horse, should the parties' mediated settlement be rescinded on the basis of unilateral mistake where the owner's discovery responses failed to disclose an advertisement and other information potentially adverse to the defense?
The Court of Appeal of Florida held that the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing the rider to rescind the mediated settlement agreement. The owner violated her discovery obligations by failing to disclose the advertisement and information known to her about the horse's behavior that prompted the use of the supplement. That information was relevant to the rider's discovery requests and to some of the questions posed during the depositions. The owner's lack of knowledge about the horse's use of a calming supplement did not result from her inexcusable neglect. The rider did not learn of the horse's use of calming supplements due to the owner's omissions. Because the system of justice depends on truthful discovery, misconduct in discovery had to be discouraged by disallowing the settlement that was the fruit of such misconduct. The Court reversed the orders denying the rider's motion to rescind the settlement agreement and granting the owner's motion to enforce the settlement agreement and remanded the case for further proceedings.
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