June 07, 2018

Relying on material not within the four corners of a settlement document to explain the "intent" of the settlement is misplaced


Relying on material not within the four corners of a settlement document to explain the "intent" of the settlement is misplaced
Woolfolk v New York City Board/Dept. of Educ., 2018 NY Slip Op 03765, Appellate Division, First Department

Supreme Court denied the employee's petition to set aside the employer's annual performance rating of the employee as "ineffective" upon the court's determinating that any right to initiate a legal or equitable claim concerning the rating was waived by employee's "Stipulation of Settlement" of disciplinary charges filed against the employee.

The employee had been served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law §3020-a. Prior to the adjudication of those charges, the employee and the appointing authority entered into a "Post-Charge Stipulation of Settlement" to discontinue the disciplinary action. Subsequently the employee filed an administrative appeal challenging the "ineffective" annual performance rating received by the employee. The administrative appeal was rejected by the appointing authority and employee initiated an Article 78 proceeding challenging the appointing authority's rejection of the appeal.

Sustaining the Supreme Court's dismissal of the employee's Article 78 petition, the Appellate Division, citing W.W.W. Assoc. v Giancontieri, 77 NY2d 157, explained that it is well settled that "when parties set down their agreement in a clear, complete document, their writing should as a rule be enforced according to its terms. Evidence outside the four corners of the document as to what was really intended but unstated or misstated is generally inadmissible to add to or vary the writing."

In this instance, said the court, "the clear and express terms of the stipulation of settlement" indicated that the employee had waived any right to file a claim in court relating to any matter arising from or relating to her employment prior to December 2015, including this challenge to the individual's year-end performance rating of "ineffective" for the prior school year.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



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