A homeowner suing over the alleged unconstitutional taking of her home in New Bedford for unpaid taxes was not bound by her prior acceptance of a $65,000 settlement because defense counsel subsequently insisted on confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions as part of the agreement. The city of New Bedford and a tax lien investment business that initiated the tax foreclosure proceeding tried to enforce the $65,000 settlement after the homeowner backed out of the settlement, however, a U.S. District Court judge concluded there was no binding settlement agreement between the parties because there was no agreement on a material term of the contract: confidentiality.
Andra Hutchins spoke with Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly about the case, stating that the decision follows the black letter of the law: “We all learned this in first year contracts,” she said. “There must be a ‘meeting of the minds’ on all essential terms. If not, there is no contract and it cannot be enforced.” Andra added that, in her experience, confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses are treated as material terms of a settlement. “When it’s an individual versus an entity, and the entity is a defendant…the entity is almost always pushing for those terms because they don’t want to be bad-mouthed, especially [in this era] of social media.”
About Andra Hutchins
Andra J. Hutchins has 20 years of experience representing individuals, families, employees and health care professionals in education law, domestic relations, employment law, business litigation and professional licensure matters. Andra’s practice is focused on helping people in complex legal and emotionally charged situations receive fair and equitable treatment. She understands the laws and regulations and is a strong advocate for her clients in both the courtroom and at the negotiating table.