Alleva v. Municipality of Anchorage
In Alleva v. Municipality of Anchorage, 467 P.3d 1083 (Alaska 2020), the supreme court held that the superior court properly considered a settlement agreement that plaintiffs referenced in but did not attach to their complaint in granting defendants’ motion to dismiss, and that the settlement agreement prevented plaintiffs’ suit. (Id. at 1091). The Allevas owned commercial property in downtown Anchorage and brought suit against a nearby charitable soup kitchen, a service provider operating a homeless shelter, and the Municipality of Anchorage in 2012, claiming trespass and nuisance based on the allegedly illegal activities of the kitchen and shelter’s clients. (Id. at 1085). The parties entered into a settlement agreement, whereby the Allevas agreed to “further waive, release, and discharge any future claims arising out of or relating to the conduct of guests or invitees . . .” of defendants in exchange for a settlement sum. (Id. at 1085–86). However, in 2018, the Allevas filed another complaint against the same defendants, again alleging trespass and nuisance with similar language to the 2012 complaint. (Id. at 1086). The superior court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis that the settlement agreement barred the Allevas’ claims. (Id.). On appeal, the Allevas argued that the superior court should not have considered the settlement agreement in ruling on the motion to dismiss because the Allevas did not attach the settlement agreement to their complaint, rendering it “outside the pleadings.” (Id. at 1087). The supreme court affirmed the superior court’s decision, reasoning that because the Allevas’ complaint referenced the settlement agreement and the authenticity of the agreement was not in doubt, the agreement was not outside the complaint. (Id. at 1088). The supreme court further determined that the settlement agreement explicitly released defendants from liability for trespass and nuisance claims, and it was “reasonably ascertainable” that the objectionable conduct would persist following the settlement agreement. (Id.). Because there were no public policy considerations counseling against enforcing the terms of settlement agreement, the supreme court determined that the settlement agreement barred the Allevas’ complaint, affirming the superior court’s granting of defendants’ motion to dismiss. (Id. at 1091).