Meadows v. City of Dry Ridge et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER: 1) Plaintiff Meadow's Motion for Hearing/Oral Argument 36 is DENIED; 2) Defendant's Motion to Enforce Settlement 36 is GRANTED; 3) This matter is dismissed and stricken from the docket. Signed by Judge David L. Bunning on 7/3/2017.(TJZ)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-61-DLB-JGW
CITY OF DRY RIDGE, et al.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Defendant City of Dry Ridge (“Dry Ridge”), Defendant Clay Crupper in his
individual capacity, and Defendant Clay Crupper in his official capacity (collectively
“Defendants”) have moved to enforce the settlement agreement with Plaintiff Deborah
Meadows. (Doc. # 27). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Hearing or Oral
Argument Regarding Motion to Enforce Settlement. (Doc. # 36). Both motions are fully
briefed (Docs. # 34, 35, and 37) and ripe for the Court’s review.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On April 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant action (Doc. # 1) asserting claims of
First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations arising out of her arrest and dispute
with Defendants concerning her water bills. (Doc. # 34 at 1).
On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff and Defendants participated in a settlement
conference with Magistrate Judge Wehrman. (Doc. # 23). Although they were unable to
reach an agreement, the parties agreed to continue negotiations. Id. On March 23, 2017,
after discussing the matter with Plaintiff and acting with her supposed authorization
Plaintiff’s counsel1 sent Defendants’ counsel an e-mail which reads in relevant part:
This e-mail is to confirm our settlement in Meadows v. Dry Ridge, et al., 15cv-61, for a total of $50,000 - $5,000 going to Ms. Meadows and $45,000
going to O’Hara, Taylor, Sloan & Cassidy for fees and costs. As agreed,
there will be no confidentiality provision connected to this settlement. We
will provide you with our firm’s W-9 in the near future.
(Doc. # 27 at Exhibit A). Within an hour, Defendants’ attorney responded, agreeing and
saying that they would “draft and send a Release and AOD.” Id. That same day,
Magistrate Judge Wehrman issued an Order stating that the case had been settled. (Doc.
However, Plaintiff later informed her attorney that she no longer wanted to accept
the settlement. (Doc. # 34 at 2). Plaintiff claimed that “she felt pressured to settle and
did not believe she would be committed to a settlement until she signed an agreement.”
Both parties agree that Plaintiff never signed a written agreement; however,
Defendants maintain that the March 23, 2017 e-mail exchange created an enforceable
settlement. (Doc. # 27 at 4). Accordingly, on April 21, 2017, Defendants moved to
enforce the settlement agreement. (Doc. # 27). Plaintiff denies the existence of an
enforceable settlement (Doc. # 34), and on June 14, 2017, requested an evidentiary
hearing to resolve an alleged factual dispute as to whether or not she knowingly and
voluntarily accepted the terms of settlement. (Doc. # 36). 2
The email was sent by Megan Fields, who was representing Plaintiff at the time as cocounsel with Michael O’Hara. However, on April 18, 2017, Fields filed a Motion to Withdraw as
Plaintiff’s attorney (Doc. # 24), which Magistrate Judge Wehrman granted. (Doc. # 26).
Subsequently, Michael O’Hara has been Plaintiff’s only counsel.
In both her Response to Defendants’ Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. # 34) and her
own Motion for a Hearing or Oral Argument Regarding Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. # 36),
Plaintiff argues that an evidentiary hearing is necessary so that Plaintiff can fully explain herself
A. Need for an Evidentiary Hearing
Plaintiff has requested an evidentiary hearing (Doc. # 36) on Defendants’ pending
Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. # 27) pursuant to Kentucky Federal Court Rule 7.1(f),
which permits parties to request oral argument in a motion. Plaintiff alternatively claims
that oral argument is needed to resolve the factual dispute as to whether she knowingly
and voluntarily accepted the settlement agreement. (Doc. # 36 at 1). Because the Court
finds that the parties’ agreement contains no factual dispute, Plaintiff’s Motion for a
Hearing or Oral Argument Regarding Motion to Enforce Settlement is denied.
While the Court has the power to summarily enforce settlement agreements, it is
customary to grant a party’s request for an evidentiary hearing if there is a substantial
factual dispute. Aro Corp. v. Allied Witan Co., 531 F.2d 1368, 1372 (6th Cir. 1976); see
also Noga v. Parts Assocs., Inc., No. 98-3789, 2000 WL 178385 at *2 (6th Cir. Feb. 8,
2000). “However, no evidentiary hearing is required where an agreement is clear and
unambiguous and no issue of fact is present.” RE/MAX Int’l, Inc. v. Realty One, Inc., 271
F.3d 633, 646 (6th Cir. 2001). Thus, to determine whether Plaintiff’s request for an
evidentiary hearing should be granted, the court must first determine whether the parties’
settlement agreement was unambiguous or whether a substantial factual dispute
Because settlement agreements are a form of contract, they are subject to the
substantive contract law of the forum state. Bamerilease Capital Corp. v. Nearburg, 958
F.2d 150, 152 (6th Cir. 1992); see also Hageman v. Signal L.P. Gas, Inc., 486 F.2d 479,
while relieving her counsel of the constraints of attorney-client privilege. However, this does not
change the legal analysis as to whether there is a need for an evidentiary hearing.
487 (6th Cir. 1973); Edwards v. Hocking Valley Cmty. Hosp., 87 F. App’x 542, 550 (6th
Cir. 2004); Smith v. ABN AMRO Mortg. Grp. Inc., 434 F. App’x 454, 460 (6th Cir. 2011).
Under Kentucky law,3 settlement agreements must satisfy “the requirements associated
with contracts generally, i.e., offer and acceptance, full and complete terms, and
consideration.” Cantrell Supply, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 94 S.W.3d 381, 384 (Ky. Ct.
App. 2002). If the parties agree on all the essential terms, then the settlement agreement
is enforceable even if it has not been formally signed. RE/MAX, 271 F.3d at 646.
The “interpretation of a contract, including questions regarding ambiguity, are
questions of law to be decided by the court.” Hazard Coal Corp. V. Knight, 325 S.W.3d
290, 298 (Ky. 2010) (quoting First Commonwealth Bank of Prestonburg v. West, 55
S.W.3d 829, 835 (Ky. Ct. App. 2000)). The primary objective when interpreting a contract
is to determine the intent of the parties. 3D Enters. Contracting Corp. v. Louisville &
Jefferson Cty. Metro. Sewer Dist., 174 S.W.3d 440, 448 (Ky. 2005). If the language of
the agreement is ambiguous, then the court will determine the intention of the parties by
looking at both the language of the agreement and extrinsic evidence such as “the
situation of the parties and the conditions under which the contract was written.” Fear v.
P.T.A. Indus., Inc., 103 S.W.3d 99, 106 (Ky. 2003) (citations omitted). However, if there
is no ambiguity, “a written instrument will be enforced strictly according to its terms, and
a court will interpret the contract's terms by assigning language its ordinary meaning and
Although the parties do not address the choice-of-law issue in their briefs, they apparently
all believe that Kentucky law applies, and the Court agrees. In a contract dispute, Kentucky courts
apply Kentucky law when “there are sufficient contacts and no overwhelming interests to the
contrary. . . .” Harris Corp. v. Comair, Inc., 712 F.2d 1069, 1071 (6th Cir. 1983) (citing Breeding
v. Mass. Indemnity and Life Ins. Co., 633 S.W.2d 717 (Ky. 1982)). Here, there are sufficient
contacts with Kentucky and no strong reason why the law of another state should apply. At all
times relevant to this action, every party has been a citizen of Kentucky, and all the events giving
rise to this action occurred in Kentucky. (Doc. # 1 at 2).
without resort to extrinsic evidence.”
Id. (citations omitted); see also 3D Enters.
Contracting, 174 S.W.3d at 178; Cantrell, 94 S.W.3d 381 at 385. “A contract is ambiguous
if a reasonable person would find it susceptible to different or inconsistent interpretations.”
Cantrell, 94 S.W.3d at 385 (citations omitted); see also Transp. Ins. Co. v. Ford, 886
S.W.2d 901, 905 (Ky. Ct. App. 1994).
Here, the language of the settlement agreement could not be more unambiguous.
A reasonable person is unlikely to find that the language of the e-mail exchange is open
to multiple or inconsistent interpretations. The e-mail sent by Plaintiff’s counsel plainly
states that the e-mail “is to confirm our settlement” and goes on to define the essential
terms of the settlement agreement including how much money Plaintiff will receive, how
much money Defendants will pay in fees and costs, and whether the agreement includes
a confidentiality provision. (Doc. # 27 at Exhibit A). Defendants’ response is equally
clear, accepting the Plaintiff’s proposal and offering to take the next steps to formalize the
agreement. Id. Based on the March 23, 2017 e-mail exchange, both parties intended to
enter into a settlement agreement.
Because the language of the agreement is not subject to multiple interpretations,
there is no need to look beyond the four corners of the agreement. Based on the
language of the e-mail exchange, no substantial factual disputes remain. As such, there
is no need for an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons herein stated, Plaintiff’s Motion for
a Hearing or Oral Argument Regarding Motion to Enforce Settlement is denied.
B. Motion to Enforce Settlement
Because there is no need to conduct an oral argument, the Court may also rule on
Defendants’ Motion to Enforce Settlement. Courts favor enforcing settlement agreements
“whenever equitable and policy considerations so permit.” Aro Corp., 531 F.2d at 1372.
Therefore, “[s]ummary enforcement of a settlement agreement for which there is no
dispute as to the terms of the agreement is the only appropriate judicial response, absent
proof of fraud or duress.” RE/MAX, 271 F.3d at 650. As described above, the March 23,
2017 e-mail exchange created an unambiguous settlement agreement between Plaintiff
and Defendants. Plaintiff brings no allegation of fraud or duress, merely that she “felt
pressured and did not believe she would be committed to a settlement until she signed
an agreement.” (Doc. # 36 at 2). Neither feeling pressured nor being ignorant of the
established legal doctrine qualifies as fraud or duress. Thus, the parties are bound by
Accordingly, for the reasons stated herein,
IT IS ORDERED as follows:
1. Plaintiff Deborah Meadow’s Motion For a Hearing or Oral Argument Regarding
Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. # 36) is DENIED;
2. Defendants’ Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. # 27) is GRANTED; and
3. This matter is dismissed as settled and stricken from the docket.
This 3rd day of July, 2017.
k:\data\orders\cov15\15-061 meadows moo.docx
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?