Catlett v. Catlett

In Catlett v. Catlett, 630 S.W.2d 478, 482 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1982, writ ref'd n.r.e.), the plaintiff and the defendant announced in open court that they had entered into a settlement agreement. Catlett, 630 S.W.2d at 480-81. Based on the announcements, the district court "pronounced the settlement to be the judgment of the court." Id. at 481. The dependent administrator, who was the plaintiff in the lawsuit, failed to get prior approval from the probate court to compromise the estate by entering into the settlement agreement. Id. About six months after the district court's pronouncement, the probate court "approved, confirmed and ratified" the settlement agreement. Id. After the probate court approved the settlement, the dependent administrator sought to withdraw his consent to the settlement. Id. at 482. On appeal, he argued that he lacked the power to enter into the settlement agreement because he failed to get prior approval of the agreement by the probate court. Id. at 482. The appellate court held "that an administrator's unauthorized compromise and settlement of litigation in open court is an act that is voidable, but not void." Id. at 483; cf. Hughes v. Hess, 141 Tex. 511, 513, 517, 172 S.W.2d 301, 302, 304-05 (1943) (refusing to declare a settlement agreement void where the probate court never "formally approved" of the agreement, but the agreement "had at least the tacit approval of the court"). The court further held that any error in failing to obtain prior approval from the probate court before entering into a settlement agreement "was cured by the probate court's subsequent order ratifying the settlement." Catlett, 630 S.W.2d at 483.