The devil is in the detail!
Much of what we do involves attention to detail. A comma in the wrong place or a full stop instead of a semi colon can change the whole effect of a sentence, and so change the legal implications. Even if it only causes a degree of ambiguity it can mean confusion and cost money to fix.
So imagine how much more significant it can be if you use the wrong word. Words that may have fairly obvious implications to you, could mean something completely different to me. Imagine you are involved in a small dispute that goes to Court. Neither of you have solicitors because there isn’t enough money involved to make it worthwhile. They are claiming for three things. You agree you are liable on one (although dispute the amount). You strongly dispute another, and a third could go either way. You agree terms under which you pay top dollar for the agreed one and they agree to drop the other two points and withdraw the proceedings. Happy Days. You pay, and the other side write to the court and say they want to withdraw.
A few months later, the company who made the claim decide that they’ve found further evidence regarding the point that could have gone either way, and they want to have another go. They write to you and say they still want to be paid for the third item. You point to the deal that you did, and the withdrawal of the proceedings. They say they’ve taken legal advice this time, and because the proceedings were withdrawn rather than dismissed, no decision has been made and so they are not prevented from bringing fresh proceedings on that point – they are not compromised and such proceedings would not be an abuse of process. There is no consent order and nothing that makes it clear that the settlement was in full and final settlement of everything set out in the claim form.
You decide to take your own legal advice, and argue to your solicitor that withdrawal and dismissal effectively mean the same thing. It means that the proceedings are brought to an end by reason of the payment, so that’s an end to it. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily the case, as in my world, withdrawal and dismissal do not mean the same thing. There are still legal arguments I can run on your behalf, but they will cost more than the money they are after if they decide to call your bluff. A clearly worded consent order, or at the very least a more comprehensive exchange of e-mails between the parties would have saved you a lot of money, even though it would have incurred fees.
If you are negotiating a settlement, and would like some words of wisdom, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact my colleague Giulia@kleymansolicitors.com who doesn’t mince her words. We’d be happy to use our extensive vocabulary of essential legal terms to help you come up with the write answer!
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Worth our weight in words.