Settlement Agreement says what it means and means what it says, says Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals
America’s leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery proactively resolved through settlement a dispute with a customer. The customer had alleged that the manufacturer’s farming equipment was defective and imperiled his business. Following the settlement, the customer and the customer’s insurer filed suit against the manufacturer. In the course of the lawsuit, the customer challenged the settlement on several grounds, including ambiguity, coercion and economic duress. Jo Anne Deaton and Lindsey McDowell moved for summary judgment on behalf of the manufacturer. This posed a challenge, because in Oklahoma, “duress” is always a jury question. The trial court found that there was no admissible evidence of duress, thus allowing for summary judgment. The Court of Civil Appeals agreed. In affirming the District Court of Okmulgee County, the Court of Civil Appeals held that evidence of “a business necessity to settle the matter” does not rise to the level of economic duress. Kutz v. Deere & Co., No. 111,624, December 19, 2014.