We had a dispute with a contractor we hired who said we owed them money after termination of our relationship. We sent an offer of the full amount the contractor said we owed in return for customer data the contractor was holding hostage. Contractor rejected the offer and kept the data so we did not pay.
The contractor filed a claim in small claims for the full amount. The contractor used the "settlement offer" as their evidence of payment due and owing. We said it was a settlement offer in return for what we needed. The arbitrator ruled that our offer was a "meeting of the minds" that we owed the contractor the full amount, and did not require the contractor to return the data.
Are "settlement offers" like this admissible in court and able to be used against the defendant?
Settlement offers denoted as such are not admissible in Court. That said, Small Claims courts are courts of equity, and attempt to do substantial justice so the rules of evidence are not always followed, and small claims judge or hearing officer will often consider things that are not admissible.
Generally, settlement offers are not admissible but admissions made in the context of settlement discussions are. Therefore, if you made any admissions if your offer such as "I know we owe you __ dollars" that could be admissible. I said "generally" above because I don't know how small claims court looks at this.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 385-8015 or via email at [email protected] The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
Small Claims court are not governed by normal rules of evidence regarding admissibility.
The above answer is only for information. This answer and any response does not create an attorney-client relationship between the parties and the communication is not privileged and confidential. The best course of action is to consult with a lawyer about your specific case. If you need to contact me, please call at 212-537-6936 or email at [email protected]
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