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Mediator Testifies

Mediator Testifies

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Published by vpynchon
In this unpublished case from the Third District Court of Appeal in California, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's enforcement of a settlement agreement based, in part, upon the mediator's testimony concerning the parties' intent.
In this unpublished case from the Third District Court of Appeal in California, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's enforcement of a settlement agreement based, in part, upon the mediator's testimony concerning the parties' intent.

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Published by: vpynchon on Oct 04, 2009
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10/03/2009

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Filed 9/2/09 Palmer v. State Farm General Ins. CA3
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publicationor ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIATHIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT(Sacramento)SANDI PALMER,Plaintiff and Appellant,v.STATE FARM GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY,Defendant and Respondent.C057971(Super. Ct. No.04AS01198)Plaintiff Sandi Palmer brought suit against defendant StateFarm General Insurance Company inter alia for breach of contractand for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fairdealing, seeking the costs of remediation and restoration of herreal and personal property caused by water damage from a burstdishwasher hose. The parties mediated the dispute and agreed tosettle the matter by submitting Palmer’s contract claims to abinding “high/low” arbitration. The settlement was memorializedin a handwritten settlement agreement. It provided that “[t]he1
 
parties agree to a binding arbitration with a low of $14,000 anda high of contractual damages up to and including the applicablepolicy limit.”State Farm prepared a further written agreement, ascontemplated by the agreement executed at the mediation, butPalmer refused to sign it. State Farm sought to enforce thefurther written agreement pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure664.6.
1
The trial court ruled on the “review of the declarationsand evidence submitted” that the “parties agreed to a high/lowarbitration proceeding, with a low of $14,000 and a high ‘up toand including the applicable policy limit’, not twice the policylimit as plaintiff now claims.”Palmer argues on appeal that the parties agreed that shewas entitled to recover up to the applicable policy limits ofher insurance policy on
each
of her two potential claims andasserts that “there was no substantial evidence to support thetrial court’s enforcement of the [further written] settlementagreement” and that such enforcement amounted to animpermissible reformation of the settlement agreement executedat the mediation.The trial court resolved whatever ambiguity existed in thesettlement agreement by review of the declarations of theparties. We find that substantial evidence supports thejudgment. (
Parsons v. Bristol Development Co.
(1965) 62 Cal.2d861, 865.) Accordingly, we shall affirm the judgment.
1
Further undesignated statutory references are to the Code ofCivil Procedure.2
 
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUNDIn March 2004, Palmer sued State Farm for, among otherthings, breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant ofgood faith and fair dealing.In February 2007, the parties mediated the dispute beforeDonald S. Walter and agreed to settle the matter by submittingPalmer’s contract claims to binding arbitration. The settlementwas memorialized in a handwritten “SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT” draftedby Walter. It provides in pertinent part: “The parties agreeto a binding arbitration with a low of $14,000.00 and a high ofcontractual damages up to and including
the applicable policy limit
. It is agreed there are two potential claims. Defendantwill pay the cost of the arbitration. [¶] The parties waivethe provisions of [the] California Evidence Code relating tomediation confidentiality, rendering this agreement enforceablepursuant to . . . section 664.6.” (Italics added.)The agreement also provides that State Farm “will prepare arelease and dismissal for execution upon receipt of saidconsideration” and “pay an additional 40% of the awardedcontractual damages” if Palmer prevails. The parties furtheragreed that “there will be a further written agreement regardingthe arbitration procedures including selection of thearbitrator.”State Farm prepared a further written agreement and sent itto Palmer on March 1, 2007. Paragraph 3 of the
 AGREEMENTS
section of that document reads as follows:3

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