Tuesday, December 08, 2009, 11:28 AM

COA: Writing Required for Accord and Satisfaction

In Hewett v. Weisser, the Court of Appeals addressed when a plaintiff's pleading of accord and satisfaction can act as a bar to the plaintiff's personal injury claims.

After a 2004 motor vehicle accident, Gerald Hewett field a negligence action against Tonya Goode, the driver of the car Hewett was riding in at the time of the accident, and Robert and Bonnie Weisser, the driver and owner, respectively, of the vehicle Goode's car collided with. Hewett sought damages for personal injuries sustained in the accident. The Weissers filed a counterclaim against Hewitt for damage to their vehicle.

Hewett moved to dismiss the counterclaim based upon the doctrine of accord and satisfaction. Hewett claimed that Bonnie Weisser accepted payment in full and satisfaction for the property damage to her vehicle.

The trial court eventually ordered summary judgment in the Weisser's favor because "plaintiff's affirmative defense of Accord and Satisfaction as to the Defendants' Weissers Counterclaim entitled the Defendants Weissers to judgment as a matter of law."

Hewitt appealed, arguing that summary judgment was improperly granted because "no release or other writing exists to document accord and satisfaction." The Weissers argued that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment in their favor because "when a plaintiff pleads settlement and release as a bar to a defendant's counterclaim, the pleading constitutes a ratification of the settlement and bars both plaintiff's and defendant's actions[.]"

The Court of Appeals rejected the Weissers' argument because, in the context of motor vehicle accidents,

a settlement as to property damage cannot “act as a bar, release, accord and satisfaction, or discharge of any claims other than the property damage claim, unless by the written terms of a properly executed settlement agreement it is specifically stated that the acceptance of said settlement constitutes full settlement of all claims and causes of action arising out of the said motor vehicle collision or accident.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-540.2 (emphasis added).

The Court of Appeals held that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment for the Weissers because " without the 'written terms of a properly executed settlement agreement . . . [that] specifically stated that the acceptance of said settlement constitutes full settlement of all claims and causes of action arising out of the said motor vehicle collision or accident[,]” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-540.2, plaintiff’s pleading of accord and satisfaction cannot act as a bar to his personal injury claim."

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