Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure 80(D) Interpretation
In Canyon Contracting Co. v. Tohono O'Odham Hous. Auth., 172 Ariz. 389, 390, 837 P.2d 750, 751 (App. 1992), in determining whether an agreement was "disputed" and therefore whether Rule 80(d) applied, our examination included whether a genuine dispute of material fact existed regarding the attorney's authority to settle the case. 172 Ariz. at 392, 837 P.2d at 753.
Because we concluded a factual dispute existed, the Court determined that Rule 80(d) applied. Id.
The Court further determined that where the attorney's settlement authority was subject to a genuine dispute of material fact, Rule 80(d) required the writings to include the written assent of the principal. Id. at 393, 837 P.2d at 754.
The Court reasoned that "in order to effectuate Rule 80(d)'s policy of avoiding difficult issues of proof in the context of enforcing settlement agreements, we hold that the manifestation of assent, as well as the terms of the agreement, must be in writing." Id.
Because one party's assent to the terms was not in writing, we reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. Id.
Although the plain language of Rule 80(d) does not require the assent to be in writing, see Fragoso v. Fell, 210 Ariz. 427,7, 111 P.3d 1027, 1030 (App. 2005) (we usually look to plain language of rule to determine intent of drafters), in Canyon Contracting this court interpreted the rule to include this requirement. We only overturn long-standing precedent for compelling reasons. Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1,22, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011).
Even though the burden is lower with regard to court rules, see Wells v. Fell, 231 Ariz. 525,11, 297 P.3d 931, 934 (App. 2013), the Robertsons have not argued we should disagree with Canyon Contracting, no compelling reason appears to overturn Canyon Contracting, and we decline to do so.
Rule 80(d) thus requires an actual "dispute," and the party relying on Rule 80(d) must show at least a genuine dispute of material fact concerning the agreement or the lawyer's authority to bind the party in the settlement of a lawsuit. Id. at 392, 837 P.2d at 753.
The rule then specifies the procedure for proving an agreement affecting litigation by requiring the agreement or consent and the manifestation of assent to the agreement to be in writing; where the attorney's authority is disputed, the assent must come from the principal directly. Id. at 393, 837 P.2d at 754; Rule 80(d).