02 February 2015 #Employment
The High Court has given judgment in a case, which although it is not an employment case, considered the issue of whether a settlement agreement had settled future claims. Although the settlement agreement was, it appeared, drafted narrowly and only made reference to the specific claim number in the previous court proceedings, the court considered very carefully the statements of case of the original claims. It noted that the broad nature of the pleading meant that the original claims would have included these new claims, if they had been known about at the time.
The consequence of this is that when parties settle all claims in the context of an existing claim, such as in employment tribunal proceedings, and define the settlement by reference to the claim number, it is not the case that all future claims are automatically excluded from settlement.
The Court held that when deciding whether a party intended to compromise future claims, it is important to distinguish between the situation where a party is truly ignorant of future claims (namely, that he knew in general terms what it was that he did not know in detail), and the situation where a party anticipates the possibility of future claims, even if he does not know the full extent of them. In the case in question, one arising out of the phone hacking scandal, the pleadings in the original claims showed that the claimants anticipated that further disclosure may reveal more instances of phone hacking (Brazier v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC (Ch)).