ADT LLC et al v. Alder Holdings, LLC et al
ORDER (OPINION) STAYING CASE 17-CV-81237, ORDER DISMISSING CASE 15-CV-80073, AND ORDER ON INJUNCTION. Closing Case for ADMINISTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY. Count III is SEVERED and DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for Plaintiff to refile that claim in a separat e case. The Clerk of the Court IS DIRECTED to assign any newly-filed case with the severed claim in Count III to the undersigned. Motions terminated: 18 Defendant's MOTION to Dismiss 1 Complaint. Signed by Judge Robin L. Rosenbe rg on 1/10/2018. (sk) NOTICE: If there are sealed documents in this case, they may be unsealed after 1 year or as directed by Court Order, unless they have been designated to be permanently sealed. See Local Rule 5.4 and Administrative Order 2014-69. Modified status/text on 1/12/2018 (sk).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
ALDER HOLDINGS, LLC, et al.,
ORDER STAYING CASE 17-CV-81237, ORDER
DISMISSING CASE 15-CV-80073, AND ORDER ON INJUNCTION
This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss at docket entry 18 in
case 17-CV-81237 (“ADT III”) and Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss at docket entry 432 in case
15-CV-80073 (“ADT II”). Upon review of the Motions and Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Court
concludes that the central issue in contention between the parties is whether Plaintiff’s Complaint
in ADT III falls within the scope of a prior settlement agreement between the parties in ADT II.
In the Complaint in ADT III, Plaintiff alleges that although the parties entered into a settlement
agreement on May 24, 2017 in ADT II, Defendants damaged Plaintiff between May 24, 2017 and
the date the Court entered an injunction (in connection with the settlement agreement) on
October 20, 2017, also in ADT II. The Court previously has addressed the settlement agreement,
and any disagreements arising under the agreement, in ADT II: “If the parties disagree over
which Defendants are obligated to pay Plaintiffs pursuant to the settlement agreement, the parties
may file a separate motion in connection therewith which the undersigned shall refer to
Magistrate Judge Hopkins.” DE 430 at 3, 15-CV-80073.
The Settlement Agreement between the Parties
The settlement agreement in ADT II was read into the record at a settlement conference
before Judge Hopkins on May 24, 2017. The germane portion of the transcript reads as follows:
Defendants: All right. Essentially, the first term is that the parties agree to the
entry of an injunction that would preclude Alder and its affiliates, subsidiaries,
agents, et cetera, from a list of conduct.
So, number one, the enjoined parties shall not make any false statement and shall
not train any other agents to make any false statements regarding the function,
performance, capabilities, specifications, features, requirements, reliability,
availability, or design of any ADT customers’ equipment, security systems, or
services, or to falsely represent to any ADT customer any characteristics about
such customers’ ADT system.
And, then, the second part of the agreement the next essential term, is if ADT
believes there has been a violation of the injunction, the parties have agreed to a
dispute resolution process that has to be followed prior to filing a motion for
contempt with the Court, which includes just generally speaking, written notice
and production of the recordings and other facts relating to the alleged violation
And a timeframe of 14 days to resolve the dispute. If it is not done it will go to
mediation within 45 days and if it is not resolved in mediation, then, ADT may
seek appropriate relief with the Court.
DE 414 at 4-6. The parties, thus, agreed at the settlement conference to the entry of an injunction
prohibiting certain behavior and agreed on the precise behavior that was to be enjoined; the
parties also agreed that if either party believed that the injunction had been violated, they would
resolve that disagreement through mediation before filing a motion to compel. The undersigned
was not made aware of the parties’ need for an entry of an injunction until a review of a Report
and Recommendation that was filed in connection with a Motion to Enforce Settlement as no
motion for entry of an injunction was ever filed until after the parties began to litigate their
post-settlement conduct. That Motion to Enforce Settlement was filed on July 29, 2017, and, in a
confusing manner, sought for the Court to declare the effective date of the parties’ settlement
agreement. The Court ruled that a settlement agreement did exist and was effective as of May 24,
2017. The Motion also requested that the Court enter the injunction agreed-to at the settlement
conference and, after a Report and Recommendation and objections were filed, the Court entered
the parties’ agreed-upon injunction on October 20, 2017.
Plaintiff argues that because Defendants caused damages to the Plaintiff during the period
of time prior to the entry of the injunction, the injunction cannot strictly be used as a basis for
Plaintiff to seek relief. The Court is unaware of any authority for the proposition that the
injunction entered on October 20, 2017, could have or can now be backdated to an earlier date.
See, e.g., Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). Nonetheless, this does not necessarily mean
that the Court is without the power to apply the terms contained in the injunction to the parties’
behavior during the period running from May 24, 2017, to October 20, 2017. The Court has the
power to judicially estop each party from arguing that the injunction cannot be applied to their
conduct during this period of time. The Court may invoke this power because: the parties
expressly agreed that the activities that are the subject of the injunction are the same activities
that the parties agreed would be enjoined beginning on May 24, 2017; the injunction could have
been entered as soon as May 24, 2017; and a review of the settlement agreement and settlement
conference shows that the parties intended for their conduct to prospectively be governed by the
agreed-upon injunction. The parties agreed on May 24, 2017, that the Defendants would be
enjoined from the very behavior that ultimately was encompassed within the agreed-upon
injunction entered on October 20, 2017.
The Doctrine of Judicial Estoppel
“[W]here a party assumes a certain position in a legal proceeding, and succeeds in
maintaining that position, he may not thereafter, simply because his interests have changed,
assume a contrary position, especially if it be to the prejudice of the party who has acquiesced in
the position formerly taken by him.” Davis v. Wakelee, 156 U.S. 680, 689 (1895). This rule,
known as judicial estoppel, “generally prevents a party from prevailing in one phase of a case on
an argument and then relying on a contradictory argument to prevail in another phase.” Pegram
v. Herdrich, 530 U.S. 211, 227 n.8 (2000); see 18 Moore’s Federal Practice § 134.30, p. 134-62
(3d ed. 2000) (“The doctrine of judicial estoppel prevents a party from asserting a claim in a legal
proceeding that is inconsistent with a claim taken by that party in a previous proceeding”); 18 C.
Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 4477, p. 782 (1981) (“absent
any good explanation, a party should not be allowed to gain an advantage by litigation on one
theory, and then seek an inconsistent advantage by pursuing an incompatible theory”).
Courts have uniformly recognized that the purpose of judicial estoppel is “to protect the
integrity of the judicial process,” Edwards v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 690 F.2d 595, 598 (6th Cir.
1982), by “prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions according to the exigencies
of the moment,” States v. McCaskey, 9 F.3d 368, 378 (5th Cir. 1993). See In re Cassidy, 892
F.2d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 1990) (“Judicial estoppel is a doctrine intended to prevent the perversion
of the judicial process.”); Allen v. Zurich Ins. Co., 667 F.2d 1162, 1166 (4th Cir. 1982) (judicial
estoppel “protect[s] the essential integrity of the judicial process”); Scarano v. Central R. Co.,
203 F.2d 510, 513 (3d Cir. 1953) (judicial estoppel prevents parties from “playing ‘fast and loose
with the courts’ ” (quoting Stretch v. Watson, 69 A.2d 596, 603 (N.J. Super. 1949)). Because the
rule is intended to prevent “improper use of judicial machinery,” Konstantinidis v. Chen, 626
F.2d 933, 938 (D.C. Cir. 1980), judicial estoppel “is an equitable doctrine invoked by a court at
its discretion,” Russell v. Rolfs, 893 F.2d 1033, 1037 (9th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
Courts have observed that “[t]he circumstances under which judicial estoppel may
appropriately be invoked are probably not reducible to any general formulation of principle,”
Allen, 667 F.2d, at 1166. Nevertheless, several factors typically inform the decision whether to
apply the doctrine in a particular case: First, a party’s later position must be “clearly inconsistent”
with its earlier position. E.g., United States v. Hook, 195 F.3d 299, 306 (7th Cir. 1999). Second,
courts regularly inquire whether the party has succeeded in persuading a court to accept that
party’s earlier position, so that judicial acceptance of an inconsistent position in a later
proceeding would create “the perception that either the first or the second court was misled,”
Edwards, 690 F.2d at 599. A third consideration is whether the party seeking to assert an
inconsistent position would derive an unfair advantage or impose an unfair detriment on the
opposing party if not estopped. See Davis, 156 U.S. at 689.
The Application of Judicial Estoppel to the Parties in ADT II
Here, all of the elements for judicial estoppel are met. The parties agreed to the entry of
the injunction in ADT II. The parties did not agree to a delayed entry of an injunction. The
parties similarly agreed to the specific terms of the injunction entered by the Court. The parties
were on actual notice, through their own agreement, of the conditions that would apply to their
conduct, prospectively. The parties expressed a desire to have an injunction entered to apply to
their conduct, prospectively, on May 24, 2017. The parties represented the same to the Court, on
the record at the settlement conference. The Court therefore first considers whether any party’s
“later position [is] ‘clearly inconsistent’ with its earlier position.”
If either Plaintiff or
Defendants takes the position that they should not be bound by the terms contained in the
injunction for the period between May 24, 2017 and October 20, 2017—which they fully agreed
to—the Court concludes that such a position would be inconsistent. The parties agreed to
undertake certain actions and they agreed to the Court’s entry of an injunction in connection
therewith. By way of example, Defendants agreed on the record that they would “not make any
false statement and shall not train any other agents to make any false statements regarding the
function, performance, capabilities, specifications, features, requirements, reliability,
availability, or design of any ADT customers’ equipment, security systems, or services, or to
falsely represent to any ADT customer any characteristics about such customers’ ADT system.”
Defendants agreed to ensure their compliance with those conditions through the entry of an
injunction. If Defendants were to take the position that they were permitted to undertake the
foregoing actions (or any other prohibited action) solely because of a delay in the entry of the
injunction, the Court concludes that that position, viewed in the totality of the settlement
agreement, is inconsistent with its position set forth in the record at the settlement conference.
This same reasoning applies to Plaintiff, the party who sought the injunction in the first place.
Furthermore, the Court relied upon the parties’ settlement agreement in at least two
respects. First, the Court removed this case from its trial calendar after great expenditure of
judicial labor in preparing this case for trial. Second, the Court relied upon the parties’ settlement
agreement in entering the agreed-upon injunction—an act which employed the power of this
Court. See Baughman v. Walt Disney World Co., 685 F.3d 1131, 1133-1134 (9th Cir. 2012)
(holding that a party’s use of the coercive power of a court subsequent to settlement may be
grounds for judicial estoppel). Settlement agreements, even settlement agreements not adopted
by this Court, may serve as a basis for the invocation of judicial estoppel. Id.; Commonwealth
Ins. Co. v. Titan Tire Corp., 398 F.3d 879, 887-88 (7th Cir. 2005). Similarly, requests to enforce
a settlement agreement may serve as a basis for judicial estoppel to be invoked1 and requests for
the Court to enter an injunction may serve as grounds for judicial estoppel as well. See Murray v.
Silberstein, 882 F.2d 61, 66-67 (3rd Cir. 1989).
The Court next considers “whether the party has succeeded in persuading a court to
accept that party’s earlier position, so that judicial acceptance of an inconsistent position in a
later proceeding would create ‘the perception that either the first or the second court was
misled.’” The Court concludes that this element is met here. Based upon the terms of the
settlement agreement as a whole, if the Court were to accept the position that any party was
permitted to circumvent or act against the terms of the injunction (while awaiting entry of that
injunction), the Court would certainly conclude that it was misled.2
The Court finally considers whether “the party seeking to assert an inconsistent position
would derive an unfair advantage or impose an unfair detriment on the opposing party if not
estopped.” Here, if one party complied with the terms read into record at the settlement
conference while the other party did not (while awaiting entry of the injunction), the Court
concludes that the breaching party would certainly impose an unfair detriment on the opposing
1 See Comm’cn Workers of Am. v. N.J. Dep’t of Personnel, 282 F.3d 213, 219 (3d Cir. 2002).
2 For authority for this proposition, the Court cites the cases, supra, on page 6 and page 7 of this Order: Walt Disney
World, Commonwealth Insurance, Communication Workers of America, and Silberstein..
The policy underscoring the doctrine of judicial estoppel is met here. If any party before
the Court were to act against the terms they agreed to be bound to at the settlement conference,
such an action would result in unfair prejudice against the opposing party, would harm the
integrity of the judicial process, and would equate to the improper use of judicial machinery.
After the expenditure of great judicial labor in preparing ADT II for trial, this Court removed the
case from its trial calendar based upon its reliance on the parties’ settlement agreement.
Edwards, 690 F.2d at 595 (“Judicial estoppel ‘is intended to preserve the integrity of the judicial
process.’”). In summary, while the Court will not modify or backdate the injunction entered on
October 20, 2017,3 all parties are estopped from raising the argument that they cannot be found to
be in violation of the terms of the injunction between the dates of May 24, 2017 and October 20,
2017, based solely upon the date the Court entered the injunction.4 Furthermore, it would appear
to the Court that the parties may well be estopped from arguing that they cannot be estopped.
The parties have expressly represented to this Court that they want the injunction to apply to
conduct arising after May 24, 2017. For example, Plaintiff takes the position: “ADT agrees with
Alder’s reading of the law—Alder should have been bound by the injunction’s terms on May
24.” ADT III, DE 24 at 3. Defendants’ position is similar: “Defendants have consistently treated
the Injunction as applying to all customer complaints from May 24, 2017 forward and have
3 Plaintiff references the fact that it obliquely requested this Court to enter the agreed-upon injunction nunc pro tunc
as of May 24, 2017. That was a request contrary to law. “The failure of a court to act, or its incorrect action, can
never authorize a nunc pro tunc entry. If a court does not render judgment or renders one which is imperfect or
improper, it has no power to remedy any of these errors or omissions by treating them as clerical misprisions.”
Cypress Barn v. Western Elec. Co., Inc., 812 F.2d 1363, 1364 (11th Cir. 1987) (quoting Recile v. Ward, 496 F.2d
675, 680 (5th Cir. 1974)). However, nothing in this Order shall preclude the parties from stipulating that the
effective date of the injunction should be backdated to May 24, 2017.
4 The Court’s ruling on this issue does not conflict with the Court’s earlier refusal to grant Plaintiff attorney’s fees
for Defendants’ alleged violation of the injunction because such attorney’s fees require Plaintiff to comply with the
dispute resolution procedures in the injunction—procedures that Plaintiff did not comply with. See DE 430 at 2.
attempted to comply with the alternative dispute resolution requirements of the Injunction for
complaints that were previously forwarded from AFT to Defendants.” Id. at DE 18 at 2.
Plaintiff’s Arguments against Dismissal in ADT III
Turning to ADT III, Plaintiff takes the position that it has the unilateral right to
completely ignore the terms of the injunction and the terms of the parties’ settlement agreement.
Plaintiff’s position is as follows:
Defendants’ motion fails because it misconstrues the Permanent Injunction’s
dispute resolution procedures. Those procedures by their terms apply only to
claims for contempt of the injunction, or for enforcement of the injunction. The
Permanent Injunction states: “in the event ADT believes that the Enjoined Parties
have violated the injunction, the parties will engage in the following dispute
resolution process before ADT files any motion for contempt or any motion to
enforce the injunction.” [APT II DE 431 at 3 (emphasis added).]
ADT has not filed a motion for contempt of the Permanent Injunction. Nor has
ADT filed a motion to enforce the injunction. Instead, ADT has served a
summons and complaint. The complaint does not allege a violation of the
Permanent Injunction. Rather, it alleges that defendants’ deceptive sales practices
occurring after May 24, 2017, violate Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act [DE 1 at
16-19] as well as the common law of unfair competition. [DE 1 at 19-22.] Nor
does ADT’s third claim, for breach of the settlement agreement, [DE 1 at 22-23]
implicate the Permanent Injunction’s provisions.
DE 24 at 1-2. Plaintiff’s position is therefore that it gets to choose. If Defendants violate the
Court’s injunction, Plaintiff contends that it could elect to enforce the injunction or it could elect
to file a new case alleging the same claims that it brought in ADT II. The Court unequivocally
rejects Plaintiff’s position as directly contravening the terms of the parties’ settlement agreement
and the terms of the injunction.5 The settlement agreement and the injunction clearly require
5 Plaintiff’s position is also grounds for the Court’s invocation of the judicial estoppel doctrine—the doctrine is
intended to prevent litigants from “play[ing] fast and loose with the courts.” U.S. Philips Corp. v. Sears Roebuck
Co., 55 F.3d 592, 559 (Fed. Cir. 1995).
Plaintiff to follow a dispute resolution procedure if Plaintiff believes that the Court’s
injunction has been violated:
The second part of the agreement, the next essential term, is if ADT believes
there has been a violation of the injunction, the parties have agreed to a
dispute resolution process that has to be followed prior to filing a motion for
contempt with the Court, which includes just generally speaking, written notice
and production of the recordings and other facts relating to the alleged violation.
DE 414 at 6 (emphasis added); DE 431 at 3. Based upon the Court’s rulings herein, it would be
impossible for Plaintiff to believe that the facts alleged in its Complaint in ADT III do not
reference conduct that simultaneously violates the conditions of the injunction. Indeed, the
allegations in Plaintiff’s ADT III complaint essentially mirror the allegations in Plaintiff’s ADT
II complaint, with the dates of the conduct-at-issue being the only principle difference between
the two complaints. The injunction clearly and unambiguously requires Plaintiff to pursue its
remedies for a violation of the injunction through certain defined procedures—any other
interpretation of the injunction renders Plaintiffs’ agreement to this provision meaningless and
illusory. See, e.g., DE 414 at 6 (“[There is a] timeframe of 14 days to resolve the dispute. If it is
not done it will not go to mediation within 45 days and if it is not resolved through mediation,
then, ADT may seek appropriate relief with the Court.”).
To be clear, the Court makes no finding that Plaintiff’s assent to the settlement agreement
means that Plaintiff has agreed to forego future claims or parallel claims in lieu of the dispute
resolution procedures in the Court’s injunction, nor does the Court make the finding that
Plaintiff’s assent to the dispute resolution process in the injunction is its exclusive remedy. The
Court merely concludes that, at a minimum, Plaintiff has agreed that it will follow the dispute
resolution procedures for any conduct it believes violates the ADT II injunction, and there is no
basis for Plaintiff to believe that its allegations in ADT III (at least in part) do not include
allegations that Defendants violated the ADT II injunction. As a result, the Court exercises its
discretion to stay ADT III pending completion of the dispute resolution process that the parties
agreed to in ADT II. All parties are judicially estopped from arguing the injunction does not
apply to their conduct between May 24, 2017 and October 20, 2017 for the reasons set forth
above. The Court recognizes that the Court’s stay may mean that Plaintiff’s parallel remedies (its
remedies at law separate and apart from its remedies under the injunction) are delayed, to an
extent. Nonetheless, this delay is a direct result of (i) Plaintiff complying with the terms of the
bargain that Plaintiff struck and (ii) the Court’s duty to “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive
determination of every action and proceeding” pursuant to Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, together with the Court’s duty to conserve judicial resources in the context of parallel
litigation pending in this Court.
The Court addresses one final point. Plaintiff’s ADT III claims encompass two different
sets of factual allegations. The first is that Defendants have essentially violated the ADT II
injunction—the Court has already addressed that issue at length in this Order. The second is that
Defendants have breached the settlement agreement in ADT II. This latter issue, a breach of
contract claim (Count III), litigates the scope of the terms in the parties’ settlement agreement
and also requests that the settlement agreement be reformed. Thus, Plaintiff’s breach of contract
claim focuses on a distinct set of facts separate and apart from its unfair competition claims
(which focus on Defendants’ sales practices) in Count I and Count II of its Complaint. Pursuant
to Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this Court may exercise its discretion to sever
any claim when the claim is discrete and separate from other claims. See, e.g., Nelson v. Blue
Eyed Holdings, Inc., No. 13-60569, 2013 WL 6238056 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 3, 2013). The Court
exercises that discretion to sever Plaintiff’s Count III in ADT III so that Plaintiff is not unfairly
prejudiced in pursuing this claim while the case is stayed due to Count I and Count II. Plaintiff’s
Count III is therefore dismissed without prejudice for Plaintiff to refile that count in a separate
Final Ruling in Case 17-CV-81237, ADT III
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED THAT CASE 17-CV-81237
The Clerk of the Court shall CLOSE CASE 17-CV-81237 FOR
ADMINISTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY. All pending motions in case 17-CV-81237 are
DENIED AS MOOT. After the parties’ dispute resolution process in ADT II has been
completed, any party may move for the Court to lift the stay in case 17-CV-81237.6 Count III is
SEVERED and DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for Plaintiff to refile that claim in a
separate case. The Clerk of the Court IS DIRECTED to assign any newly-filed case with the
severed claim in Count III to the undersigned.
Final Ruling in Case 15-CV-80073, ADT II
With respect to Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss in case 15-CV-80073 at docket entry 432,
the parties agreed to dismiss that case in the settlement agreement. DE 414 at 7. Defendants
have responded to that motion by stating that they agree to dismissal. Defendants also request in
the motion that the Court reserve jurisdiction to enforce its injunction and reserve jurisdiction to
enforce the settlement agreement. The Court’s reservation of jurisdiction was not a contingency
in the parties’ settlement agreement, nor is there any discussion of such in the transcript
6 At such time as the stay is lifted, the Court will permit Plaintiff to amend its complaint and Defendants to answer or
file a responsive motion, consistent with the disposition and resolution of proceedings in ADT II, if necessary.
containing the terms of the settlement agreement. In light of the fact that Defendants agree to
dismiss this case and that the dismissal of the case was a term of the settlement agreement,
Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss [DE 432] is GRANTED. The Court need not reserve jurisdiction to
enforce its own injunction.
See, e.g., Game Craft, LLC v. Vector Putting, LLC, No.
6:14-CV-243, 2014 WL 3747341 (M.D. Fla. July 29, 2014); c.f. Perry-Bey v. City of Norfolk,
678 F. Supp. 2d 348, 385-86 (E.D. Va. 2009) (discussing cases in which judges did not reserve
jurisdiction to enforce an injunction). The Court declines to reserve any jurisdiction to enforce
the terms of the settlement agreement.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, Fort Pierce, Florida, this 10th day of January,
ROBIN L. ROSENBERG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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