An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA02-916


Filed: 1 July 2003


v .                         

                                        Forsyth County< br> INGEBORG STATON and MERCEDES                    No. 96 CvS 1409
STATON, Individually and as
Trustees of Their Respective
Revocable Living Trusts,
    Plaintiffs and Third-
    Party Plaintiffs


    Defendant and Third-
    Party Plaintiff


    Third-Party Defendants

    Appeal by defendant Darrell Wilson from an order and judgment entered 5 March 2002 by Judge Ben F. Tennille in Forsyth County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 14 April 2003.

    Philip A.R. Staton, plaintiff-appellee, pro se.
    Jeffrey S. Lisson for defendant-appellant Darrell Wilson.

    HUNTER, Judge.

    Darrell Wilson (“defendant”) appeals from the trial court's order and judgment enforcing the settlement agreement entered into by him and Philip A.R. Staton (“plaintiff”). Defendant claims the trial court erred by altering the terms of the parties' settlement agreement and by failing to have a hearing to determine the terms of the agreement. We affirm the trial court's order and judgment for the reasons stated herein.
    The facts and procedural history relevant to this appeal are summarized as follows. Plaintiff brought suit against defendant, alleging inter alia, that defendant converted armored vehicles and weapons located in Colombia, South America. On 4 December 2001, the parties participated in a pre-trial hearing prior to the scheduled 19 December 2001 trial. The parties entered into settlement negotiations and announced to the court that they had reached a settlement. Subsequently, on 31 January 2002, defendant filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement and for entry of judgment. After the parties entered into the settlement agreement on 4 December 2001 and prior to the filing of the motion to enforce the settlement agreement on 31 January 2002, the parties exchanged correspondence and proposed consent orders that incorporated the essential terms of the settlement agreement. In support of his motion to enforce the settlement agreement, defendant included as exhibits the various correspondence and proposed consent ordersexchanged between the parties between 4 December 2001 and 31 January 2002. A hearing was held on defendant's motion on 21 February 2002 during which the trial court heard arguments from defendant's counsel and plaintiff, who represented himself at the hearing. In ruling on defendant's motion, the trial court considered exhibits submitted by both parties, as well as arguments from defendant's counsel and plaintiff. On 5 March 2002, the trial court entered judgment enforcing the terms of the parties' settlement agreement. Additional facts will by included as necessary in our analysis.


    Defendant initially contends the trial court erred in altering the terms of the parties' settlement agreement. We disagree.
    A trial court has authority to enter an order requiring specific performance of a settlement agreement but it cannot add to or alter the terms to which the parties have agreed. Laing v. Lewis, 133 N.C. App. 172, 515 S.E.2d 40 (1999). Moreover, our Supreme Court has “recognize[d] that settlement of claims is favored in the law, and that mediated settlement as a means to resolve disputes should be encouraged and afforded great deference.” Chappell v. Roth, 353 N.C. 690, 692, 548 S.E.2d 499, 500 (2001) (citations omitted).
    The evidence submitted to the trial court for consideration in ruling on defendant's motion to enforce the settlement agreement included the following. On 19 December 2001, plaintiff's counsel faxed a revised consent order to defendant's counsel. On the sameday, defendant's counsel responded by faxing a letter to plaintiff's attorney in which he stated: “Revised Order looks fine, except for one thing: Shouldn't we be clear in paragraph 8 that you or your clients will prepare the title documents for [defendant's] signature?” On 21 December 2001, defendant's attorney faxed plaintiff's attorney another letter stating, “Order looks fine. Please let me know when [plaintiff] approves.” Subsequently, on 25 January 2002, plaintiff's counsel mailed defendant's counsel a letter and a revised version of the prior consent order requesting that “Application for Authorization to Sell Vehicles” be attached to the proposed consent order. Thereafter, on 28 January 2002, defendant objected to signing the “Application for Authorization to Sell Vehicles” because they could be construed as powers of attorney. Defendant then filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement on 31 January 2002.
    The pertinent provisions of the consent order which defendant agreed to when he stated that the “[o]rder looks fine[,]” are set forth as follows:
            8.    In order to facilitate a physical transfer of the Security Assets to the Plaintiffs and the [o]ther Statons and as a part of the settlement documented by this Consent Order, [defendant] has agreed to execute all documents necessary for such transfer, including, but not limited to, an original properly completed and executed Colombian transfer of title document notarized by U.S. notary in substantially the current form of the uncompleted exemplar copy of such title transfer document, attached hereto as Exhibit D and to do so within ten (10) days of entry of this Consent Order;

            . . . .
            10.     [Defendant] has further agreed as directed by further order of this Court to execute any further documents and give any further instructions which may be reasonably necessary to further facilitate physical and legal transfer of the Security Assets to Plaintiffs and the other Statons, provided that [defendant] is not required to travel outside his county of residence or employment to sign the documents, and is not required to seek any execution assistance other than that of a Notary Public[.]

(Emphasis added.)
    Defendant specifically contends the trial court improperly altered the terms of the parties' settlement agreement by ordering defendant to execute an “Application for Authorization to Sell Vehicles.” We conclude, however, that the court did not alter the substance of the settlement agreement since plaintiff had agreed, in essence, to sign any documents that the authorities in Columbia required to be signed in order to transfer title to the vehicles. Plaintiff informed the court that without an “Application for Authorization to Sell Vehicles,” he would not be able to have the vehicles transferred in Colombia. Therefore, if the court had not ordered defendant to execute these applications, defendant could have, in effect, blocked the transfer of the vehicles. The trial court merely enforced the terms agreed upon so that the purpose of the settlement agreement could be accomplished. Accordingly, this assignment of error lacks merit.

    Defendant next asserts that the trial court should have held a hearing to determine the terms of the settlement. However, a hearing was held on defendant's motion to enforce the settlementagreement and after reviewing the hearing transcript, we note that defendant's counsel never suggested that an additional hearing was needed or that there were any additional documents or materials that he wished to submit for the court's consideration. In addition, defendant's counsel did not request permission to call any witnesses at the hearing. Instead, he requested the court to rule on the motion based upon the documents that had been submitted by him with his motion. Therefore, defendant cannot now claim that the trial court erred in failing to hold an additional evidentiary hearing to determine whether he should be required to sign the “Application for Authorization to Sell Vehicles.” Nevertheless, after reviewing the record, it appears that the trial court was able to determine the purpose and intent of the settlement agreement from the numerous documents submitted by the parties and no additional hearing was necessary.
    Chief Judge EAGLES and Judge CALABRIA concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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