Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Tazewell County, Illinois. No. 94-L-14. Honorable Donald C. Courson, Judge, Presiding.
Released for Publication March 14, 1996.
Present - Honorable Peg Breslin, Presiding Justice, Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice. Justice Lytton delivered the opinion of the court: Breslin, P.j., and Slater, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lytton
The Honorable Justice LYTTON delivered the opinion of the court:
The plaintiff, Barbara L. Opper, and the defendant, Fred A. Brotz, signed a stipulation in which they agreed to determine liability in a personal injury case from the results of the parties' polygraph examinations. Based on this agreement, the trial court dismissed Opper's complaint. Opper appeals. We affirm.
Opper filed a personal injury action against Brotz, an auctioneer, for injuries she allegedly suffered while Brotz was transporting a Hammond organ from her residence to the auction site. Opper proposed that the parties stipulate to a polygraph examination to resolve the issue of liability. Brotz agreed, and the parties chose Edward Bowers as the lie detector examiner. The test results indicated that Brotz had responded truthfully, but Opper had not.
Brotz filed a motion to enforce the stipulation. Opper objected, claiming that the polygraph examination did not conform to the agreement and, further, was unenforceable because it was contrary to public policy. Opper requested an evidentiary hearing on the validity of the test results.
The trial court dismissed Opper's complaint with prejudice on January 24, 1995. Opper filed a motion to reconsider and vacate the order and again requested an evidentiary hearing. The trial court denied Opper's motion, and she appeals.
Opper alleges that the agreement is too indefinite to be enforceable. Even if a stipulation fails to specify some procedural details, it is enforceable if its material terms are clear, certain, and definite. See West v. H.P.H., Inc., 231 Ill. App. 3d 1, 6, 596 N.E.2d 1, 4, 172 Ill. Dec. 722 (1992).
Illinois favors voluntary settlements, and we should reject an otherwise valid stipulation only if it is fraudulent, unreasonable, or in violation of public policy. See People v. Sadaka, 174 Ill. App. 3d 260, 262, 528 N.E.2d 283, 286, 123 Ill. Dec. 738 (1988). The agreement gave Opper and Brotz reciprocal risks and responsibilities, and both parties were represented by counsel. Although using polygraph tests to determine civil liability is uncommon and presents some unique considerations, the parties' choice in this case was not inherently unreasonable. The terms of their agreement are clear and evenhanded. Opper's belated reevaluation of the risks and benefits of her decision does not justify invalidating an agreement she freely accepted. The stipulation includes the fundamentals of the parties' understanding; the language used is plain and susceptible to only one reasonable interpretation. The agreement is not too vague to be enforceable.
Opper argues that even if the trial court properly enforced the settlement, the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing to determine the suitability of the subjects for polygraph testing. She cites a statement allegedly made by Bowers, indicating that her emotional reaction to one question could have produced "apparently deceptive responses to other questions", and a report from a ...