What are my rights in editing a legal document before signing?

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What are my rights in editing a legal document before signing?

I did a contact job with a company this summer. Halfway through the work, the owner said the work was to be finished but he would not pay for any further hours. I had not been paid at all by that point. I brought him to Small Claims Court, and we recently had mediation. We did not come to an agreement there. However, a week later he e-mailed me with a financial offer to settle out of court. He then sent me 2 documents created by his lawyer and stated “Attached is the Legal Agreement for our compromise. Please read it over and if you approve, sign it and FAX to me at XXXXXXX. If you have any changes, please mark them in red.” As he had added additional contingencies, I did as well. Now he does not accept the contract and is trying to coerce me into signing it as he originally presented it. Is this legal? Why don’t I get a say? Should I bring it to a lawyer? Unfortunately, he is the business, so he has the money and I don’t.

Asked on March 1, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You are right to have felt uncomfortable in this situation.  You have the same legal rights to negotiate a settlement with or without an attorney as your old employer.  This settlement is a negotiation between you, much the same as the original contract for work upon which the entire action is based.  Now, do you have a return date for court or what happened after the mediation (which I am assuming was non-binding and no decision was rendered)?  You may need to bring the agreement with you when you go back to court and discuss it in front of the judge.  But you also may want to get an attorney at this point in time to at least consult with.  In the meantime, do not respond to your old boss.  He will get the idea that you will not be bullied and then might calm down to a point to discuss it rationally. And if not, you will see him in Court.  Good luck.


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