Appellate Procedure - § 34-3-21, Ala. Code 1975 - Authority of Attorney to Bind Client to Settlement Agreement


S.L. and D.L. v. J.L.C. and R.C., [Ms. 2180013 and 2180014, Mar. 29, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2019). This per curiam decision (Moore, Donaldson, Edwards, Hanson, JJ., concur; and Thompson, P.J., concurs in the result) dismisses the paternal grandfather’s appeal from an order of the Coffee Juvenile Court but reverses and remands the order on the grandmother’s appeal.

In regard to the paternal grandfather’s appeal, the court held that “‘a party cannot claim error where no adverse ruling is made against him.’” Ms. *16, quoting Alcazar Shrine Temple v. Montgomery Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, 868 So. 2d 1093, 1094 (Ala. 2003) (some internal quotation marks omitted). Because the paternal grandfather did not file any postjudgment motion and suffered no adverse ruling in the trial court, he had no right to appeal. Ibid.

The paternal grandmother argued that the juvenile court erred in entering an agreed order that allowed the maternal grandparents visitation with the children without restrictions to protect the children. Ms. *10. The court held that under § 34-3-21, Ala. Code 1975, “‘[w]here a trial court finds that an attorney has the authority to enter into a settlement agreement and an agreement is made in writing or by an entry of the agreement on the trial court record, the client will be bound.’” Ms. *17, quoting Jones v. Stedman, 595 So. 2d 1355, 1356 (Ala. 1992). The court further held that “‘it is always a question of fact whether an attorney has the authority to make a settlement on behalf of his client.’” Ibid., quoting Warner v. Pony Express Courier Corp., 675 So. 2d 1317, 1320 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996). Because the paternal grandmother remained silent when her attorney recited the settlement agreement on the record, the juvenile court could properly infer that the lawyer had the paternal grandmother’s authority to settle the case. Ms. *17-18.

Despite concluding that the paternal grandmother was bound to the settlement agreement, the court held the juvenile court erred in refusing to conduct a hearing on the paternal grandmother’s postjudgment motion because the best interests of the children remain a paramount consideration that is not obviated by a settlement agreement. Ms. *20.

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