This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).







Elsie Mayard,





Todd Crabtree Law Firm, P.A., et al.,



Filed July 24, 2007


Willis, Judge


Washington County District Court

File No. C2-04-7248


Elsie M. Mayard, 755 West Minnehaha Avenue, St. Paul, MN  55104 (pro se appellant)


Richard J. Thomas, Chad J. Hintz, Burke & Thomas, P.L.L.P., 3900 Northwoods Drive, #200, St. Paul, MN  55112 (for respondents)


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Pro se appellant challenges the district court’s enforcement of a settlement agreement.  Because we conclude that the district court did not clearly err by finding that appellant’s attorney was authorized to enter into the settlement agreement, and because none of appellant’s other arguments has merit, we affirm. 


Pro se appellant Elsie Mayard was injured in a motor-vehicle accident in January 2002 and retained respondents Todd Crabtree Law Firm and Susan Bowdon to represent her in a personal-injury lawsuit.  Appellant later discharged respondents and settled her claims against the driver of the other vehicle for $30,000.  Respondents filed an attorney’s lien on the settlement for the fees and costs they incurred while representing appellant, and $10,633.75 of the settlement was retained in a trust account.            

In November 2004, appellant, pro se, brought several claims against respondents arising from their representation of her in the personal-injury lawsuit.  She later retained counsel and filed an amended complaint and then a second amended complaint.  Respondents counterclaimed for their legal fees and costs.        

On January 15, 2006, appellant’s then-attorney wrote a letter to respondents formally offering a settlement, which he had discussed with respondents’ counsel a few days earlier.  Under the proposed settlement, all parties would dismiss all claims, and appellant would receive the money held in the trust account.  Appellant’s attorney sent appellant a copy of the January 15 letter. 

Respondents replied to appellant’s attorney in a January 20 letter, which proposed modified settlement terms: appellant would first dismiss her malpractice claim against respondents; the parties would then dismiss all remaining claims, and appellant would receive the money held in trust. 

Appellant’s attorney met with appellant in person to discuss the modified settlement terms, and appellant authorized her attorney to accept settlement on those terms.  By a letter dated February 6 to respondents, appellant’s attorney accepted the modified settlement terms.  Appellant received a copy of that letter, which stated that appellant’s attorney “finally had the opportunity to discuss your modified settlement proposal” with appellant and that she “has agreed to accept the proposal.”     

On March 13, 2006, the district court dismissed appellant’s malpractice claim based on the parties’ signed stipulation of dismissal.  On March 27, 2006, appellant’s attorney withdrew as her counsel on the ground that appellant claimed to have changed her mind about settling the lawsuit.  Respondents moved for enforcement of the settlement agreement, and the district court held an in camera hearing on the motion on June 2, 2006.  Appellant attended the hearing and addressed the district court.  The district court ordered enforcement of the settlement agreement and dismissed all remaining claims of the parties.  This appeal follows. 




Appellant argues that the district court erred by enforcing a settlement agreement that appellant “did not make.”  Appellant does not dispute that the settlement agreement is otherwise valid—she argues only that she did not consent to it.   

The settlement of litigation is favored, and a settlement agreement will be enforced absent fraud, mistake, collusion, or a result that will not “stand in equity.”  Jallen v. Agre, 264 Minn. 369, 373, 119 N.W.2d 739, 742-43 (1963).  Attorneys have statutory authority to settle lawsuits on behalf of their clients.  “An attorney may bind a client, at any stage of an action or proceeding, by agreement . . . made in writing and signed by such attorney.”  Minn. Stat. § 481.08 (2006).  Whether an attorney had authority to settle a lawsuit is a question of fact to be determined by the district court and that determination will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous.  Triple B & G, Inc. v. City of Fairmont, 494 N.W.2d 49, 52 (Minn. App. 1992).  “Findings of fact are clearly erroneous only if the reviewing court is ‘left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’”  Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999) (quoting Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987)).  If there is reasonable evidence tending to support the district court’s findings of fact, this court will not reverse those findings.  Id.

The district court found that appellant’s then-attorney “met in person with [appellant] to discuss the modified settlement terms.  At that meeting, [appellant] authorized [her attorney] to communicate to [respondents] that [appellant] would settle the dispute according to the terms articulated” in respondents’ January 20 reply letter. 

The record supports the district court’s finding that appellant’s attorney had authority to enter into the settlement agreement.  The deposition testimony of appellant’s former attorney and the correspondence between counsel indicate that appellant agreed to the settlement agreement and authorized her former attorney to enter into the agreement on her behalf.  Appellant was copied on correspondence from her lawyer to opposing counsel.  See Schumann v. Northtown Ins. Agency, Inc., 452 N.W.2d 482, 484 (Minn. App. 1990) (determining that the appellants were bound as a matter of law by a settlement agreement into which their attorney had entered because it was undisputed that the appellants’ attorney sent a letter that accepted the respondents’ settlement proposal and sent a copy to the appellants and the appellants made no attempt to repudiate the acceptance). 

The district court’s finding that appellant’s attorney was authorized to enter into a settlement agreement on appellant’s behalf was not clearly erroneous.     



            Appellant makes several other arguments on appeal, none of which warrants reversal.  She claims that the district court erred by holding the June 2, 2006 “confidentiality hearing with out the appellant knowledge.”  But appellant was present and addressed the district court at the June 2 hearing according to the transcript of that hearing, so her assertion that she did not have knowledge of the hearing is wholly unsupported by the record.     

            Next, appellant argues that she was “entitled to be informed of [her] right to a jury trial” at the June 2 hearing.  She provides no support for her assertion that the district court was obligated to so inform her.  And because appellant demanded a jury trial in her self-written complaint of November 2004, it can be presumed that she was aware of any right she had to a jury trial before the June 2 hearing. 

Appellant also makes several assertions in her brief regarding the negligence of respondents and other matters related to the merits of her claims against respondents that were not considered by the district court because a settlement agreement was reached.  We do not consider these arguments on appeal.  See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (noting that an appellate court will generally not consider matters not argued and considered in the court below).