Case Illustrates Care In Drafting Remedies Available Under a Consent Judgment Via Settlement.
Howeth v. Coffelt, Case No. D072136 (4th Dist., Div. 1 Nov. 30, 2017) (unpublished) is a case reminding practitioners to pay particular attention to the remedies for a consent judgment ending a dispute reached through a settlement agreement.
Here, a driveway easement lawsuit between beachfront neighbors was ended through a settlement agreement, which included a stipulated judgment to resolve the lawsuit. However, the settlement agreement expressly provided that a fine payment feature of the judgment was enforceable through contempt proceedings and that enforcement of the settlement agreement would occur via a separate action, with the stipulated agreement also including an attorney’s fees clause relating to any future enforcement action.
Believing there was a breach of the judgment and settlement agreement, one party brought a post-judgment enforcement motion seeking an “interim judgment” awarding $12,000 in fines plus attorney’s fees. The trial court found it had no continuing jurisdiction to enforce the stipulated judgment and denied the requested relief.
The Fourth District, Division One agreed, finding the denial order was not appealable such that the appeal had to be dismissed. The problem was that the consent judgment was final, and the stipulated-to remedies were a contempt proceeding or a separate enforcement action rather than a post-judgment motion. Based on that, the lower court correctly concluded it had no retention jurisdiction based on the remedies actually agreed to between the parties. So, the lesson is, be careful how you frame the remedies and use CCP § 664.6 to allow post-judgment enforcement through a motion procedure (after making sure the trial court expressly retains jurisdiction under section 664.6 either orally, through a written order, or through a minute order to that effect).