After You Agree to a Judgment, That Is It.
We have talked often in this blog about Indiana courts enforcing agreements that have been negotiated between parties, and not interfering with those agreements absent the agreements being illegal or there being some fraud involved in reaching that agreement. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed this principle, albeit in a context that is somewhat different than what business people may be accustomed.
In situations where one party owes another party money, and a lawsuit has been filed to collect that money, it is not unusual for those parties to enter into an agreement whereby there will be an “agreed judgment” filed with the court, which the court then consents to and enters as a matter of record. Those agreed judgments often will involve a payment plan for the amounts that are owed.
In the recent case, the parties had done just that. The agreed judgment called for the defendant to pay to the plaintiff $400.55 plus an additional $450 in attorneys’ fees. Four years after the agreed judgment was entered, and presumably because the defendant had not paid what she had agreed to pay, the plaintiff filed motions with the court seeking to garnish the defendant’s wages to satisfy the agreed judgment. At that time, the defendant then appealed the entry of the agreed judgment. Through some procedural maneuverings, and even though by this time the underlying debt had already been paid, a new trial was ordered and a judgment was entered against the plaintiff after the plaintiff did not appear for the new trial.
That judgment was then appealed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals ultimately ruled that because the parties had originally entered into an “agreed judgment”, that was not appealable. Rather, the court saw the agreed judgment as an agreement, or contract, between the parties, to which the trial court consented. As such, that sort of judgment is not appealable.
In this case, the Indiana Court of Appeals was not going to let someone go back on her agreement entered into four (4) years earlier. In other words, once again Indiana courts have proven that they will enforce agreements negotiated between parties even if those agreements take the form of a judgment or otherwise.