The influence of the principle of party autonomy on settlement agreements
PhD student: Mr N. Portugaels
Promotors: B. Weyts, T. Vansweevelt
Duration: 1/9/2012 - 31/8/2018
PhD defence: Antwerpen, 4/7/2018
Parties can use several methods to settle a dispute; from conducting negotiations to going to court and obtaining a judgment. We will focus on the technique of settling a dispute contractually. All countries in our research (Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany) know the concept of a settlement agreement. The main objective of the regulations in these countries is that once the parties have settled a dispute, one must avoid to a maximal extent that these disputes can regain life. The enforceability of these national concepts is situated on the axis between the status of an agreement subject to the general law on obligations and the stronger status when it comes to legality of a judgment. Our research will examine if and to what extent the principle of party autonomy allows parties to settle a dispute for once and for all. Firstly, we will examine the limits put forward by law. Albeit some regulations go quite far, e.g. in Belgium and France, where the dading has force of res judicata, case law shows that in some cases, a judge will still break through. Therefore, in the second part of our research we will examine on what grounds a judge can break the agreement. In our final, synthesizing part we will assess both the limits set out by law and those put forward by case law to examine if a settlement agreement has a real added value, and if not, if and how the legal framework should change.