Individuals and businesses sued in California courts often reside out-of-state. Jurisdiction in that circumstance can be challenged if so-called “minimum contacts” with California are lacking. As business and other transactions are increasingly accomplished in cyberspace over the Internet without physical contact with the state, the question of what activities amount to sufficient “minimum contacts” has become more complicated, and the courts are grappling with it in analyzing different factual settings in the new virtual reality. My article, “Jurisdiction and the Internet,” published in the October 2012 issue of California Lawyer (c), discusses this complex issue in detail.
Cal. C.C.P. 664.6 authorizes summary enforcement of settlements signed by parties or stated orally in open court, but only by parties in pending state court litigation. See Wedding Products v. Flick (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 793, 809; Housing Group v. United Natl. Ins. Co. (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1106, 1108; Kirby v. So. Cal. Edison (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 840, 843-44.
There is no comparable statute or rule available in federal court. However, federal courts rely on their inherent equitable power to summarily enforce settlements between parties, but only in pending federal court litigation. See Callie v. Near, 829 F.2d 888, 890 (9th Cir. 1987); Facebook v. Pacific Northwest Software, 640 F.3d 1034 (9th Cir. 2011); Castorino v. True North Investments, 2011 WL 6002771 (N.D. Cal. 11/30/11).
The legal battle over the ownership rights to Facebook ended last year with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal highlighting two important aspects of settlements reached in mediations: (1) The short-form settlement agreements signed by the parties at the conclusion of mediations may be enforceable even if (a) they do not spell out and confirm all settlement details, and (b) even if intrinsic fraud in the inducement during mediation by a party played a role in procurement of the settlement; and (2) confidentiality rules applicable to mediation-related communications may operate to preclude any post-mediation remedy. The Facebook, Inc. v. Pacific Northwest Software, Inc., 640 F.3d 1034 (9th Cir. 2011).
Along similar lines, the California Supreme Court held that a disgruntled party who alleged that they were improperly pressured into an undesirable settlement at a mediation was precluded from using communications occurring during the mediation to support a legal malpractice claim against their lawyer. Cassel v. Superior Court (2011) 51 Cal.4th 113.
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