APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Jay M. Bloom, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 37-2009-00082818- CU-MC-CTL)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcconnell, P. J.
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. (defendant) appeals from a judgment enforcing a settlement agreement resulting in a binding mediation award in favor of Ryan Bowers, Marc Seward, and Jeffrey LaBerge (plaintiffs). Defendant contends we must reverse the judgment as the underlying settlement agreement is unenforceable because: (1) defendant never agreed to resolve the parties' dispute through binding mediation; (2) a contract term providing for binding mediation is necessarily too uncertain to be enforceable; and (3) binding mediation is not among the constitutionally and statutorily permissible means of waiving jury trial rights. We conclude there is substantial evidence to support the trial court's determination defendant agreed to the binding mediation procedure utilized in this case. We further conclude that the binding mediation provisions in the parties' settlement agreement were not too uncertain to be enforceable. Finally, we conclude binding mediation is not a constitutionally or statutorily prohibited means of waiving jury trial rights where, as here, the parties have agreed to settle their dispute in a non-judicial forum. We, therefore, affirm the judgment.
Plaintiffs sued Raymond J. Lucia, Sr. (Lucia), defendant, and other entities for defamation and related business torts. Lucia filed an arbitration proceeding against plaintiffs asserting similar claims.*fn1
The trial court subsequently determined plaintiffs were compelled to arbitrate their claims against Lucia. Plaintiffs dismissed Lucia from their lawsuit, allowing their arbitration with him to proceed separately from their lawsuit against defendant. The arbitration proceeding commenced a few months before the scheduled trial in this case. After several days of arbitration, the parties agreed to settle their dispute before the arbitration panel reached a decision. In informing the arbitration panel of the settlement, the following exchanges occurred:
"[DEFENDANT'S COUNSEL]: Through the efforts of the parties today and also the panel being patient, we've been able to resolve this arbitration to the parties' satisfaction. As a consequence, [Lucia] is dismissing all claims against the [plaintiffs], with prejudice. And, as a result, we are also encompassing the state court matter, which is set for trial in October, and we are agreeing to bring that case to binding mediation with a component which, if it's not resolved at mediation, rolls over to arbitration. I guess it's--it's mediation with a binding arbitration component following.
"[PLAINTIFFS' COUNSEL]: The mediator has the ability to decide the case at the end of the day.
"[DEFENDANT'S COUNSEL]: Correct.
"[PLAINTIFFS' COUNSEL]: --if the parties don't resolve it.
"[DEFENDANT'S COUNSEL]: So we're resolving this matter here with respect to each other. We are taking the state court case and taking the parties in that matter, agreeing to go mediate with a jointly--a mutually-acceptable mediator. And to the extent we don't resolve it that day, it becomes a mediat[ion]--an arbitration with a range of between $100,000 and $5 million as the range that he will then have the freedom to choose after we present our cases to him or her during mediation.
Following a brief discussion about ancillary matters, the chairman summarized, "So your agreement encompasses dismissal with and of the arbitration and the Superior Court case based upon the terms that you've agreed to, to mediate in a Med/Arb, baseball high-low atmosphere with a mediator of your choosing, to be chosen within the next several weeks."
After a brief discussion about allocating forum fees, the Chairman asked, "Anything else you want to put on the record . . . [?]" Defendant's counsel responded, "I think that encompasses the essential terms of our agreement." ...