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Interesting reasons for judgment were recently released in the case of Hutton v. Hutton 2020 BCSC 2046. In this wills and estates case, a brother and sister entered into a contentious dispute surrounding the estate of their mother. Their mother’s will left the majority of the estate to the sister. The brother sought a larger portion of the estate and sued under s. 60 of the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act on the basis that the will was not just, adequate, or equitable in the circumstances. He also alleged that there was malfeasance by his sister in her scope as a Power of Attorney of their mother before she passed.

In February 2020, the parties engaged in a judicial settlement conference. The sister alleged that a settlement agreement was reached at the judicial settlement conference but the brother disputed this, stating that there was no agreement. As a result, the sister brought an application before the court to enforce the settlement agreement.

After reviewing the law on the procedure of settlement agreement enforcement, Chief Justice Hinkson found that he could enforce the settlement agreement made at the judicial settlement conference if there was in fact a valid settlement agreement.

On analysis of the circumstances, Chief Justice Hinkson found that there had been a “meeting of the minds” despite allegations to the contrary by the brother. In the end, a clear case of settler’s remorse further prolonged this extensive litigation. As a result, Chief Justice Hinkson awarded special costs to the sister as a result of her brother’s “scandalous and reprehensible” conduct in not honouring the settlement agreement.

A settlement is not something that can be entered into and then abandoned and this decision makes it clear that the Courts can, and will, enforce a settlement between parties when it is clear one has been reached – regardless of any regrets or remorse the parties may feel after the fact.

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