32 CFR § 536.63 - Settlement agreements.

§ 536.63 Settlement agreements.

(a) When required.

(1) A claimant's acceptance of an award constitutes full and final settlement and release of any and all claims against the United States and its employees, except as to payments made under §§ 536.60 and 536.61. A settlement agreement is required prior to payment on all tort claims, whether the claim is paid in full or in part.

(2) DA Form 1666 (Claims Settlement Agreement) may be used for payment of COE claims of $2,500 or less or all Army Central Insurance Fund and Army and Air Force Exchange Service claims.

(3) DA Form 7500 (Tort Claim Payment Report) will be used for all payments from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), for example, FTCA claims of $2,500 or less, FCA and MCA claims of $100,000 or less and all maritime claims regardless of amount.

(4) Financial Management Service (FMS) Forms 194, 196 and 197 will be used for all payments from the Judgment Fund, for example, FTCA claims exceeding $2,500, MCA and FCA claims exceeding $100,000.

(5) An alternative settlement agreement will be used when the claimant is represented by an attorney, or when any of the above settlement agreement forms are legally insufficient (such as when multiple interests are present, a hold harmless agreement is reached, or there is a structured settlement). For further discussion, see DA Pam 27-162, paragraph 2-73c.

(b) Unconditional settlement. The settlement agreement must be unconditional. The settlement agreement represents a meeting of the minds. Any changes to the agreement must be agreed upon by all parties. The return of a proffered settlement agreement with changes written thereon or on an accompanying document represents, in effect, a counteroffer and must be resolved. Even if the claimant signs the agreement and objects to its terms, either in writing or verbally, the settlement is defective and the objection must be resolved. Otherwise a final offer should be made.

(c) Court approval—(1) When required. Court approval is required in a wrongful death claim, or where the claimant is a minor or incompetent. The claimant is responsible to obtain court approval in a jurisdiction that is locus of the act or omission giving rise to the claim or in which the claimant resides. The court must be a state or local court, including a probate court. If the claimant can show that court approval is not required under the law of the jurisdiction where the incident occurred or where the claimant resides, the citation of the statute will be provided and accompany the payment documents.

(2) Attorney representation. If the claimant is a minor or incompetent, the claimant must be represented by a lawyer. If not already represented, the claimant should be informed that the requirement is mandatory unless state or local law expressly authorizes the parents or a person in loco parentis to settle the claim.

(3) Costs. The cost of obtaining court approval will be factored into the amount of the settlement; however, the amount of the costs and other costs will not be written into the settlement, only the 20% limitation on attorney fees will be included.

(4) Claims involving an estate or personal representative of an estate. On claims presented on behalf of a decedent's estate, the law of the state having jurisdiction should be reviewed to determine who may bring a claim on behalf of the estate, if court appointment of an estate representative is required, and if court approval of the settlement is required.

(d) Signature requirements.

(1) Except as noted in paragraphs (d)(2) through (d)(6) of this section, all settlement agreements will be signed individually by each claimant. A limited power of attorney signed by the claimant specifically stating the amount being accepted and authorizing an attorney at law or in fact to sign is acceptable when the claimant is unavailable to sign. The signatures of the administrator or executor of the estate, appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction or authorized by local law, are required. The signatures of all adult beneficiaries, acknowledging the settlement, should be obtained unless permission is given by Commander USARCS. Court approval must be obtained where required by state law. If not required by state law, the citation of the state statute will accompany the payment document. Additionally, all adult heirs will sign as acknowledging the settlement. In lieu thereof, where the adult heirs are not available, the estate representative will acknowledge that all heirs have been informed of the settlement.

(2) Generally, only a court-appointed guardian of a minor's estate, or a person performing a similar function under court supervision, may execute a binding settlement agreement on a minor's claim. In the United States, the law of the state where the minor resides or is domiciled will determine the age of majority and the nature and type of court approval that is needed, if any. The age of majority is determined by the age at the time of settlement, not the date of filing.

(3) For claims arising in foreign countries where the amount agreed upon does not exceed $2,500, the requirement to obtain a guardian may be eliminated. For settlements over $2,500, whether or not the claim arose in the United States, refer to applicable local law, including the law of the foreign country where the minor resides.

(4) In claims where the claimant is an incompetent, and for whom a guardian has been appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction, the signature of the guardian must be obtained. In cases in which competence of the claimant appears doubtful, a written statement by the plaintiff's attorney and a member of the immediate family should be obtained.

(5) Settlement agreements involving subrogated claims must be executed by a person authorized by the corporation or company to act in its behalf and accompanied by a document signed by a person authorized by the corporation or company to delegate execution authority.

(6) If it is believed that the foregoing requirements are materially impeding settlement of the claim, bring the matter to the attention of the Commander USARCS for appropriate resolution.

(e) Attorneys' fees and costs.

(1) Attorneys' fees for all subparts in this part 536 fall under the American Rule and are payable only out of the up front cash in any settlement. Attorneys' fees will be stated separately in the settlement agreement as a sum not to exceed 20% of the award.

(2) Costs are a matter to be determined solely between the attorney and the claimant and will not be set forth or otherwise enumerated in the settlement agreement.

(f) Claims involving workers' compensation carriers. The settlement of a claim involving a claimant who has elected to receive workers' compensation benefits under local law may require the consent of the workers' compensation insurance carrier, and in certain jurisdictions, the state agency that has authority over workers' compensation awards. Accordingly, claims approval and settlement authorities should be aware of local requirements.

(g) Claims involving multiple interests. Where two or more parties have an interest in the claim, obtain signatures on the settlement agreement from all parties. Examples are where both the subrogee and subrogor file a single claim for property damage, where both landlord and tenant file a claim for damage to real property, or when a POV is leased, both the lessor or lessee.

(h) Claims involving structured settlements. All settlement agreements involving structured settlements will be prepared by the Tort Claims Division, USARCS, and approved by the Chief or Deputy Chief, Tort Claims Division.