Ali Haghighi v. Russian-American Broadcasting Co.

577 N.W.2d 927 (1998)

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Ali Haghighi v. Russian-American Broadcasting Co.

Minnesota Supreme Court
577 N.W.2d 927 (1998)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

Ali Haghighi operated International Radio Network (IRN) (plaintiffs), which distributed foreign-language radio programming. In 1993, IRN contracted with Russian-American Broadcasting Co. (RABC) (defendant) to rebroadcast IRN’s Russian-language radio programs. The parties’ relationship deteriorated, and in 1995, IRN sued RABC for breach of contract. RABC counterclaimed to recover payments owed by IRN. The parties agreed to attend mediation. Before the mediation, the parties signed a mediation agreement that incorporated the language of Minnesota statute § 572.35. The statutory section required the inclusion of specified written provisions in a mediated settlement agreement, such as advising the parties to consult an attorney and that the agreement was binding. At the mediation, RABC Chief of Staff Russell Moro attended on RABC’s behalf, and Haghighi attended on IRN’s behalf. Both men were represented by counsel. After hours of mediation in which the mediator shuttled between the two parties, RABC and IRN appeared to agree to a set of terms. Moro was flying out of town, and the mediator and RABC’s attorney suggested that the parties write down the terms. RABC’s counsel proceeded to draft the majority of a three-page handwritten document containing 14 terms. All counsel reviewed and initialed each of the terms and revisions. Moro and Haghighi signed each page of the document, which did not contain the § 572.35 language. Thereafter, IRN filed a motion to enforce the handwritten document as a settlement agreement. Following an evidentiary hearing, the federal district court found that the parties intended the document to be a binding settlement agreement and granted IRN’s motion. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit certified a question to the Minnesota Supreme Court as to whether the document was unenforceable pursuant to § 572.35.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blatz, C.J.)

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