SUMMARY TO FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND
Jeffrey M. Sherlock, District Court Judge.
Following a settlement conference with the settlement master
of the Workers' Compensation Court, the claimant, who was
personally present during the conference and also represented
by counsel, repudiated a putative settlement agreement
reached during the conference. The matter was then
transferred to District Court Judge Jeffrey M. Sherlock for a
determination as to whether a binding settlement had been
The claimant agreed to a binding and enforceable settlement
agreement during the settlement conference.
Settlements: Oral Agreements. Where an
unconditional oral agreement is made to settle a workers'
compensation claim which is in litigation, the agreement is
binding and enforceable.
Settlement Conferences: Oral Agreements.
Where an unconditional oral agreement is made during a
settlement conference to settle a workers' compensation
claim which is in litigation, the agreement is binding and
OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND ORDER
hearing on Respondent St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance
Company's (hereinafter St. Paul) motion to enforce
settlement agreement was held on April 18, 2005. Petitioner
Larry McElderry (hereinafter McElderry) was represented by
James P. O'Brien. St. Paul was represented by Joe C.
Maynard and James R. Hintz. This District Court is handling
this matter at the request of the Workers' Compensation
Court. As such, this Court is acting, for this motion only,
as the Workers' Compensation Court.
matter arises out of McElderry's back injury incurred on
December 15, 2000. At that time, McElderry was employed by
Excalibur Cable Communication Company as a satellite dish
installer. At the time of the injury, McElderry's
employer was enrolled under Plan II of the Workers'
Compensation Act with the insurer being St. Paul. McElderry
filed a claim for workers' compensation, and St. Paul
accepted the claim and paid benefits.
to the December 2000 injury, McElderry had a number of lower
back injuries. As a result of one of McElderry's earlier
injuries, he was assigned a 19 percent impairment rating and
was paid $50, 000.
the December 2000 injury, McElderry's two treating
physicians, Dr. Catherine Capps and Dr. John I. Moseley, both
placed McElderry at maximum medical improvement. Dr. Capps
did this in October 2001, and Dr. Moseley did so in January
settlement conference was held in Helena, Montana, on June
18, 2002. Present were Charles G. Adams, attorney for
McElderry; McElderry; and McElderry's wife. Also present
were Joe C. Maynard, attorney for St. Paul; Cathy Anderson,
St. Paul's representative and claims adjuster; and Jay
Dufrechou, the law clerk to Workers' Compensation Judge
Mike McCarter. Dufrechou was acting as mediator at the
issue presently before this Court is whether a binding
agreement was reached at the June 18, 2002, settlement
conference. At the hearing before this Court, Charles Adams
testified that the parties did reach an agreement as was
evidenced by Exhibit 3. Exhibit 3 is a settlement agreement
that was sent by Joe Maynard to Adams. According to Adams,
Exhibit 3 is an accurate rendition of the parties'
agreement and is a common form used by practitioners and
which is located on the Workers' Compensation website.
Adams testified that after the settlement was orally agreed
upon, McElderry was upset because he did not want to close
out his medical benefits entitlement. Adams informed
McElderry that the offer was that St. Paul would pay him $15,
000 to "walk away." This would close out
McElderry's medical entitlement, would close his
entitlement to any future benefits from St. Paul, and would
release all claims between the parties, including
McElderry's right to later sue the insurance company, its
adjusters or its attorneys. Adams indicates that he described
the agreement as such to McElderry and received
McElderry's approval of the agreement.
Anderson also testified at the hearing. Anderson was the
claims adjuster on McElderry's claim for Crawford and
Company. Anderson indicated that, at the settlement
conference, she did not actually sit in the same room with
McElderry. McElderry, his wife and Adams were in one room,
and she and Maynard were in another room with Dufrechou
shuttling between them. According to Anderson, she felt the
parties had ...