This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat.  480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).


Messerli & Kramer, P.A.,


Ronald Levandoski, defendant and third-party plaintiff,


Anthony Eggink, third-party defendant,

Frank Farrell, third-party defendant,

Filed August 13, 1996
Parker, Judge

Hennepin County District Court
File No. 957890

John G. Westrick, Westrick & McDowall-Nix, P.L.L.P., 400 
Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 
(for appellant)

John J. McDonald Jr., Thomas H. Crouch, Meagher & Geer, 
P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, 
Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents Messerli & Kramer and 
Frank Farrell)

Bryon G. Ascheman, Geraghty, O'Loughlin & Kenney, P.A., 1400 
Capital Centre Plaza, 386 North Wabasha Street, St. Paul, MN 
55102 (for respondent Eggink)

	Considered and decided by Parker, Presiding Judge, Short, 
Judge, and Foley, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

	Appellant Dr. Ronald Levandoski challenges a district court 
grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents Messerli & 
Kramer and attorney Frank Farrell.  Concluding that Levandoski 
was bound by the terms of a purported settlement agreement, the 
trial judge determined that there were no genuine issues of material 
fact as to Levandoski's acquiescence to terms of the agreement or 
the validity of the document.  We reverse.

	D E C I S I O N

 	Summary judgment shall be rendered
if the pleadings, depositions, answers to 
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with 
the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine 
issue as to any material fact and that either party is 
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03.
	Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable people 
could draw different factual conclusions from the evidence 
presented.  Illinois Farmers Ins. Co. v. Tapemark Co., 273 
N.W.2d 630, 633 (Minn. 1978).  On appeal from summary 
judgment, we ask "whether there are any genuine issues of material 
fact" and "whether the lower courts erred in their application of the 
law."  State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990).  
"[T]he reviewing court must view the evidence in the light most 
favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted."  
Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).
	1.  Levandoski argues that the trial judge erred in granting 
respondents' motion for summary judgment because he did not 
consent to be bound by the purported  settlement agreement.  
Levandoski asserts that he had no attorney-client relationship with 
Erickson and that he did not authorize Erickson to settle the fee 
dispute or to bind him to a settlement agreement.  Because he had 
no agency relationship with Erickson, Levandoski argues, the trial 
judge erred in concluding that a binding settlement agreement 
existed between the parties.  
	"An agent's actual authority consists of express and implied 
authority."  Winkel v. Eden Rehabilitation Treatment Facility, 
Inc., 433 N.W.2d 135, 138 (Minn. App. 1988) (citing Hockmeyer 
v. Pooler, 268 Minn. 551, 565, 130 N.W.2d 367, 377 (1964)).  
Express authority exists when the principal directly bestows such 
authority upon the agent.  Id.  "Implied authority includes only 
those powers which are essential to carry out the duties expressly 
delegated to the agent."  Id.  Whether an attorney has been given 
express authority to settle a claim is a question of fact to be 
resolved by the trial court.  Rosenberg  v. Townsend, Rosenberg & 
Young, Inc., 376 N.W.2d 434, 438 (Minn. App. 1985).  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 (1994).  But, counsel may not settle a client's cause 
of action without the express authority from the client.  Albert v. 
Edgewater Beach Building Corp., 218 Minn. 20, 24, 15 N.W.2d 
460, 463 (1944).
	In the findings of fact, the trial judge determined that 
Levandoski gave Erickson apparent authority to act on his behalf, 
which included the authority to negotiate and enter into the 
settlement agreement.  Despite Levandoski's claims of disinterest 
in settling the fee dispute, the trial judge noted that, once the 
settlement documents were delivered, Levandoski did not "amend, 
disagree, repudiate, renounce or in any way indicate to anyone that 
he did not agree with the settlement or did not intend to be bound 
by the settlement agreement."  The trial judge further remarked 
that Levandoski's decision to wait more than a month to disclose 
his desire to pursue litigation did not weigh in favor of his position. 
 The trial judge then concluded that Levandoski had authorized 
Erickson to settle the fee dispute and because Levandoski did not 
promptly move to renounce the agreement, he was now bound by 
its terms.
	We hold that the trial judge's grant of summary judgment in 
favor of respondents was in error.  Were this a bench trial where 
review of credibility of the witnesses and weighing of evidence are 
required, our determination might be quite different.  On this 
record, however, it appears that the trial judge decided disputed 
fact issues, contrary to the standard applicable to summary 
	At the outset, we note that determining Erickson's role, 
which he described as an "informal mediator," is difficult.  The 
affidavits show that this issue is in dispute.  Becker, attorney for 
respondents Messerli & Kramer and attorney Farrell, testified that 
Erickson represented himself as Levandoski's attorney with 
authority to settle the dispute.  Levandoski testified by affidavit 
that Erickson was not his attorney and that he did not give 
Erickson authority to settle the fee dispute.  To the contrary,  
Ascheman, attorney for respondent Eggink, states by affidavit that 
Levandoski told him that he had settled the case.  We note that this 
latter, specific statement is not directly contradicted by 
Levandoski; however, if Levandoski's statement that "he did not 
authorize Erickson to settle the dispute or enter into a settlement 
agreement" is true, this inferentially contradicts Ascheman's 
	Although we believe the trial court's analysis of the 
Erickson-Levandoski relationship based on agency principles was 
a sensible approach, the trial judge's finding that an agency 
relationship existed does not acknowledge the parties' disputed 
testimony.  Furthermore, the trial court's findings that "[t]he 
uncontroverted evidence supports a finding that Levandoski 
authorized Erickson to negotiate and enter a settlement agreement" 
and "[t]he evidence, viewed in its entirety, supports a finding that 
Levandoski authorized Erickson * * * and therefore the settlement 
agreement is enforceable" state resolved factual conclusions from 
disputed evidence presented.
	Where genuine issues of material fact are in dispute, the 
opponent of the summary judgment motion is entitled to all 
favorable inferences.  We conclude, therefore, that the trial court's 
grant of  summary judgment was improper.
	2.  Respondents Messerli & Kramer and Farrell also argue 
that the settlement agreement is entitled to enforcement under the 
doctrine of equitable estoppel.  They contend that Erickson held 
himself out as Levandoski's agent with authority to settle the fee 
dispute.  Based on assurances from Erickson and Levandoski, 
respondents claim, they believed the dispute had been settled and 
agreed to suspend a pending discovery request.  Because they 
agreed not to pursue the outstanding discovery requests, 
respondents argue, Levandoski should be estopped from reneging 
on the settlement agreement.
	Equitable estoppel is a doctrine which has been designed to 
prevent a party from unfairly benefiting from his own actions.  
Bethesda Lutheran Church v. Twin City Constr. Co., 356 N.W.2d 
344, 349 (Minn. App. 1984).  "To invoke this doctrine, [a party] 
must show that [another party] made representations or 
inducements upon which [the first party] reasonably relied that will 
cause [the first party] harm if estoppel is not applied."  Id. at 349.
	The trial court found that Messerli & Kramer and Farrell 
sent the settlement papers to Levandoski expecting that he would 
sign and return them.  The trial court further found that, in reliance 
on that expectation, Messerli & Kramer and Farrell suspended their 
discovery requests.  Citing to Rosenberg, the trial court then 
concluded that, absent any response by Levandoski repudiating the 
settlement agreement, reliance was reasonable on behalf of 
Messerli & Kramer and Farrell.  
	We conclude that the trial court's determination supporting 
enforcement of the agreement based on equitable estoppel is in 
error.  We are cited to no evidence to show that respondents 
detrimentally relied on their belief that Levandoski would accept 
the settlement agreement.  Levandoski testified that he reviewed 
the proposed agreement with various attorneys during the period of 
a month before he informed respondents that he planned to pursue 
litigation.  As a matter of law, we hold that a month so occupied is 
not an unreasonable amount of time in view of Levandoski's 
affidavit which affirms that he was consulting with attorneys 
during that period.
	We also note that respondents requested signature on the 
settlement documents by "Dr. Ronald Levandoski - Pro Se".  We 
are troubled that respondents did not advise Levandoski in writing 
to seek independent legal representation, even though respondent 
is a law firm purporting to have settled a malpractice dispute with a 
former client.   Absent evidence that respondents advised this pro 
se ex-client to consult with private counsel in regard to this 
proposed settlement, respondents' reliance on the doctrine of 
equitable estoppel is weak and offset by the ethical considerations 
that are implied.  We conclude, therefore, that respondents' 
assertion of an equitable remedy, without notice to Levandoski to 
consult with counsel prior to settling the malpractice claim, 
precludes enforcement of the purported settlement agreement 
under the doctrine of equitable estoppel.


     * Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by 
appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI,  10.
       See Minn. R. Prof. Conduct. 1.8(h).