In the legal system, a stipulation is an agreement made between two or more parties to a legal proceeding. Stipulations may be made prior to trial, or during a trial, as these agreements are made to regulate certain matters related to the proceeding, and are entered as part of the official court record. Often times, stipulations are used to assist the court in determining facts that are not in dispute, as the opposing parties “stipulate” to the accuracy and verity of specific facts. To explore this concept, consider the following stipulation definition.
Definition of Stipulation
- An agreement made between two opposing parties about a demand, condition, or fact in a legal action.
- An agreement made between parties to a contract, as to its conditions, or a promise.
1545-55 Latin stipulātiōn
What is a Stipulation
Stipulation is a legal term used to refer to an agreement made between opposing parties during the course of legal proceedings. Parties may stipulate to certain conditions or facts for a variety of reasons, including to avoid delays, and to eliminate the need to use valuable time proving facts that are not in dispute. Any legal stipulation made is filed with the court, becoming legally binding, and part of the official court record.
Stipulations are encouraged by the court, as they expedite trials by doing away with issues that are agreed upon by both sides. For example, in a divorce proceeding, the parties, who originally listed different separation dates, stipulate to a marriage date of June 1, 2000, and a separation date of August 23, 2014, for a marriage of 13 years, 2 months. This eliminates the need to spend time discussing or disputing that fact.
Stipulations made in cases involving multiple parties apply only to the parties that actually entered into the agreement. Since legal stipulations can have both positive and negative consequences, parties are often advised to confer with a lawyer or mediator before entering into any agreement.
Issues that Might Be Stipulated to
When the parties do agree and form a valid stipulation, the courts are typically prevented from refusing to enforce them. The opposing parties can stipulate many matters concerning the case, including the obligations of the other parties, but they cannot stipulate the validity of certain laws. Only a court can determine the constitutionality of laws. Some of the common stipulations made are to:
- Dismiss an action
- Dismiss the case in its entirety under certain circumstances
- To admit or exclude evidence
- To admit or deny facts
For example, in civil cases, the attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant may agree to allow copies of documents to be entered into evidence rather than the originals. Any legal stipulations made between the parties can be used as evidence in court at later time if needed.
When parties to a legal proceeding come to an agreement about some issue in the proceeding, the agreement is put into writing, and called a “stipulation agreement.” In family or civil law, a stipulation agreement may be used to agree to an extended filing deadline, or to exchange certain types of documents. In creating a stipulation agreement, certain elements are required to be contained in the documents. These include:
- The names of the parties to the case
- The case number
- The identity of the court in which the matter is filed
- The title of the document, “Stipulation Agreement re: [insert issue here]”
- The details of what the parties are agreeing to
- Signatures of all parties to the agreement, as well as their attorneys, if represented
Stipulation of Dismissal
A civil lawsuit may be voluntarily dismissed by the individual who filed it, the “plaintiff,” by submitting a written request to the court to dismiss. If the party being sued, the “defendant,” has not yet filed a response, or any other documents in the case, the court will grant the voluntary dismissal. If, however, the defendant has answered, or otherwise entered the proceedings, the case can only be dismissed if the parties agree. In this case, a stipulation of dismissal must be prepared, signed by all parties, and filed with the court, in order to obtain a dismissal.
In the defendant has filed a counterclaim in response to the original lawsuit against him, it will proceed after such a stipulation of dismissal has been filed, unless the parties include the counterclaim in their agreement.
For example, John files a civil lawsuit against Mary for damaging his car during a traffic accident. After filing the lawsuit, John and Mary decide to settle the case before the trial takes place. They enter into an agreement in which Mary is to pay John the total cost of repairs, $1,217, within three months, and put this agreement into a written stipulation, which John files with the court. If Mary pays the agreed amount within the specified time frame, a Stipulation of Dismissal may be signed and filed with the court to drop the lawsuit. If Mary fails to honor her part of the agreement, the lawsuit will resume.
A Stipulation of Dismissal With or Without Prejudice
There are two ways a lawsuit can be dismissed: with or without prejudice. A lawsuit that is dismissed with prejudice means the plaintiff is not allowed to bring another lawsuit concerning the same issue in the future. A lawsuit dismissed without prejudice may be re-filed in the future. Dismissals without prejudice usually occur when the plaintiff is not ready to sue, or does not have some vital piece of information, and is common in small claims actions, in which the parties are not represented by attorneys. A stipulation of dismissal is usually assumed to be a dismissal with prejudice, otherwise the plaintiff would be able to sue the defendant again over the same issue.
Stipulation of Settlement
During legal proceedings, the parties involved can work together in order to reach a settlement agreement. They can do this on their own, with the assistance of their attorneys, or with a court mediator. When the parties are able to reach an agreement, the resulting document is known as a “settlement agreement,” or a “stipulation of settlement.” A stipulation of settlement is signed by the parties to the agreement, and filed with the court… The agreement then becomes a binding legal document, the terms of which must be adhered to by the parties.
Commonly, a hearing will be held after the parties have submitted a stipulation of settlement. The judge reviews the specifics of the agreement, and asks each party if they understand the terms to which they are stipulating. Once the judge is satisfied, he or she will sign it and make it a legal stipulation of the court.
Example of a Stipulation of Settlement
In the 1999 case of Kareem Shamel Perry v Charles Greiner, Q. Magwood, R. Humlock, D. Bennett, M. Barnes, and John Doe, inmate Kareem Shamel Perry filed a complaint against multiple defendants, stating that they had violated his constitutional and civil rights while he was incarcerated at the New York State Correctional Facility. The defendants negotiated a settlement with the plaintiff in order to keep the matter off the record, and out of the public eye.
Attorneys for all parties to the lawsuit worked together to create a stipulation of settlement, also referred to as a “stipulated settlement,” which was signed by all parties, and approved by the judge. The terms of the stipulation of dismissal were as follows:
- The defendants would pay the plaintiff a sum of $12,000 in full for damages and legal fees.
- The payment would come in the form of a check mailed to the correctional facility in which Perry was incarcerated, and posted to Perry’s prison account.
- The payment would be made and posted to Perry’s account within 120 days of the approval of the stipulated settlement by the court.
- In return, Perry would release all defendants and their heirs, as well as the State of New York, and the New York Department of Corrections, from any claims or liabilities arising from the complaint, and that the complaint would be dismissed with prejudice.
- The stipulation would not be construed as an admission of guilt or concession of liability by any of the defendants or the State of New York.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Binding – Having power to bind or oblige; imposing an obligation.
- Civil Lawsuit – A lawsuit brought about in court when one person claims to have suffered a loss due to the actions of another person.
- Damages – A monetary award in compensation for a financial loss, loss of or damage to personal or real property, or an injury.
- Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
- Hearing – A proceeding before the court at which an issue of fact or law is heard, evidence presented, and a decision made.
- Judgment – A formal decision made by a court in a lawsuit.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Plaintiff – A person who brings a legal action against another person or entity, such as in a civil lawsuit, or criminal proceedings.
- Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.