Riner v. Newbraugh

In Riner v. Newbraugh, 211 W.Va. 137, 563 S.E.2d 802 (2002), Mr. and Mrs. Riner agreed to settle their action against certain land developers and builders concerning the subdividing of the Riner farm. The settlement was reached as a result of court-ordered mediation. The Riners, however, refused to sign the final Settlement Agreement and Release prepared by the developers and builders because the Agreement included provisions which had never been addressed during the mediation conference. The additional provisions were set forth in the Agreement in three numbered paragraphs and concerned the distribution of monies and the assignment and termination of various claims. Nevertheless, the Circuit Court granted the motion of the developers and builders to enforce the Settlement Agreement and Release. In support of the ruling, the developers and builders asserted that the additional provisions were "impliedly included" in the mediated settlement because the principal intent of the parties was to fully resolve the underlying litigation. Upon appeal in Riner, this Court reversed and held that the Circuit Court committed error "by requiring the Riners to sign an agreement that differed in substance from the agreement reached as the result of the mediation conference." 211 W.Va. at 139, 563 S.E.2d at 804. Specifically, the Court stated: "There was not a meeting of the minds with regard to the terms that are specified in paragraph numbers 5, 6 and 7 of the "Settlement Agreement and Release." Absent this critical and necessary contractual element, we cannot require the Riners to sign a document that contains terms that were not part of the original agreement. For the Appellees to suggest that paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 represent nothing more than standardized release language is specious, as those paragraphs clearly address additional substantive terms and not mere procedural fine points. (211 W.Va. at 144, 563 S.E.2d at 809.)