Ingram v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 129 Order on Motion to Enforce Judgment. Signed by Senior Judge Neal B. Biggers on 02/12/2018. (bds)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-CV-00210-NBB-RP
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC.;
UNITED STUDENT AID FUNDS, INC.;
NAVIENT SOLUTIONS, fka SALLIE MAE, INC.;
and UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Presently before the court is the defendants’ joint motion to enforce settlement
agreements or, alternatively, for judgment on the pleadings. Upon due consideration of the
motion, response, exhibits and applicable authority, the court is ready to rule.
Factual and Procedural Background
The plaintiff, Krystal Ingram, alleges that she is the victim of identity theft. Ingram
asserts that, without her knowledge or consent, the thief obtained multiple student loans in her
name and later failed to make timely payments.
The providers of these loans reported the derogatory payment history to the consumer
reporting agencies (“CRAs”), Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Consequently, Ingram’s
credit report reflected the loan debt, causing her credit rating to take a significant hit. As a result,
she allegedly suffered “multiple adverse actions and denials of credit.”
Ingram disputed the alleged fraudulent loan debt to the CRAs on numerous occasions and
requested that the debt be deleted from her credit reports. The CRAs then forwarded Ingram’s
disputes to the furnishers of information, i.e. the loan providers. Ingram subsequently filed the
instant suit against the CRAs and furnishers of information for alleged violations under the Fair
Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §1681 et seq..
During discovery, Defendant Experian produced to Ingram the records it subpoenaed
from the schools for which the aforementioned student loans were obtained. Ingram
subsequently began settlement negotiations with Defendants. The following recitation of events
On August 23, 2017, Will Rooks, counsel for Experian, e-mailed Christopher Kittell,
counsel for Ingram, and stated “[t]hank you for your telephone call earlier today to convey
Plaintiff’s settlement offer.” Rooks continued “I have conveyed your offer to my client,” and
“Experian will waive any claims it may have against Plaintiff if she will dismiss all claims
against Experian.” Rooks sent a follow-up e-mail to clarify that the aforementioned “dismissal
must be with prejudice.”
On August 24, 2017, Kittell responded to Rooks, saying “now that Experian has agreed
to waive any claims against the Plaintiff, this is acceptable. Please send the settlement
agreement and credit report at your convenience.” Later that day, Rooks e-mailed Kittell and
asked “will you agree to file a stipulation of dismissal of Experian with prejudice once you
receive our notice of withdrawal of our deposition subpoena?” Kittell responded “that’s fine.”
The following day, August 25, 2017, Rooks sent Kittell Experian’s withdrawal of the
deposition subpoena. Then, on August 28, 2017, Rooks sent Kittell the settlement agreement,
release and an updated consumer disclosure.
United States Department of Education
On August 23, 2017, Kittell called Assistant United States Attorney Stuart Davis and
offered to voluntarily dismiss Ingram’s claims against USDOE in exchange for a promise from
USODE that it would not pursue any counterclaims it may have against Ingram. Davis
responded to Kittell’s offer on August 25, 2017, and stated that he had “run [Ingram’s] voluntary
dismissal proposal by the appropriate supervisors in [his] office,” and that “[USDOE] will agree
to a dismissal and . . . will agree not to file a civil counterclaim against  Ingram.”
Navient Solutions and United Student Aid Funds
On August 23, 2017, Kittell called Blythe Lollar, counsel for Navient and USA Funds,
and extended a settlement offer in which Ingram would voluntarily dismiss her claims against
Lollar’s clients provided that they agreed not to pursue any claims against her. Later that day,
Lollar e-mailed Kittell and advised that she had spoken with her clients, and that they “each
agree not to pursue any potential claims against  Ingram . . . provided [she] dismisses all claims
against them with prejudice.” The following day, August 24, 2017, Kittell responded “Thanks. I
will draft a stipulation of dismissal for your review.”
Approximately a week after the parties agreed to settle the case, but before the parties had
signed any written document, Ingram attempted to rescind her settlement offers. On August 31,
2017, Kittell wrote “[a]gainst my advice, the Plaintiff has rescinded my authority to dismiss her
claims against the remaining defendants.” Defendants now move the court to enforce the
aforementioned settlement agreements.
“A district court has inherent power to recognize, encourage, and when necessary enforce
settlement agreements reached by the parties.” Bell v. Schexnayder, 36 F.3d 447, 449 (5th Cir.
1994). In cases arising under a federal statute, like the one here, courts employ federal law in
determining whether a settlement agreement exists and is enforceable. Fulgence v. J. Ray
McDermott & Co., 662 F.2d 1207, 1209 (5th Cir. 1981). “Federal law requires that a settlement
 be entered into ‘voluntarily and knowingly’ by the plaintiff.” Id. (citing Alexander v.
Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 52 n.15 (1974); Mosley v. St. Louis Southwestern Railway,
634 F.2d 942, 946 n.5 (5th Cir. 1981)).
Further, and quite relevant in this case, federal law does not require settlement
agreements to be reduced to writing. Id. See also Quesada v. Napolitano, 701 F.3d 1080, 1083
(5th Cir. 2012); E.E.O.C. v. Philip Services Corp., 635 F.3d 164, 167 (5th Cir. 2011). Moreover,
“[a]bsent a factual basis rendering it invalid, an oral agreement to settle a federal claim is
enforceable against a plaintiff who knowingly and voluntarily agreed to the terms of the
settlement or authorized his attorney to settle the dispute.” Fulgence, 622 F.2d at 1209.
In moving to enforce, Defendants contend that the parties voluntarily and knowingly
entered into binding and enforceable settlement agreements. Defendants further opine that the
terms of the agreements are clear and unambiguous: Ingram agreed to dismiss her claims against
the remaining defendants and Defendants agreed not to pursue any claims against Ingram.
Defendants additionally note that they took overt action pursuant to the settlement by
withdrawing deposition subpoenas.
The record, discussed in relevant part in the previous section, supports Defendants’
argument. Importantly, Ingram concedes that she extended an offer to each defendant whereby
she would dismiss her claims with prejudice in exchange for Defendants’ promise to waive any
claims they may have against her. Ingram also does not dispute that Defendants accepted her
offer. Ingram further admits that she did not attempt to rescind, or repudiate, until after
Defendants had accepted her offer and agreements had been reached. Yet, without any citation
to authority, Ingram argues that the settlement agreements cannot be enforced because they were
not reduced to a writing signed by her and because she rescinded her counsel’s authority to settle
prior to the entry of judgment.
The Fifth Circuit, however, has consistently rejected such arguments. See United States
v. City of New Orleans, 731 F.3d 434 (5th Cir. 2013); Quesada, 701 F.3d 1080; Daftary v.
Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 136 F.3d 137 (5th Cir. 1998); Fulgence, 36 F.3d 447. In fact, when a
party “who has previously authorized settlement changes [her] mind . . . that party remains
bound by the terms of the agreement.” Fulgence, 662 F.2d at 1209 (citations omitted). Further,
“a settlement agreement, once entered into, cannot be repudiated by either party,” and “it is
irrelevant that [the plaintiff] tried to revoke [her] consent prior to entry of judgment.” City of
New Orleans, 731 F.3d at 439; see also Weaver v. World Finance Corp. of Texas, 2010 WL
1904561 (N.D. Tex. May 12, 2010) (enforcing settlement “where one party to a suit has initially
agreed to a settlement but later refused to execute a formal agreement.”)
The court additionally notes that it is undisputed that Kittell had authority to settle the
instant litigation on Ingram’s behalf at all relevant times. The uncontested recitation of facts
confirms that Kittell was authorized to settle and dismiss Ingram’s claims until she rescinded his
authority on August 31, 2017, after the settlement agreements at issue had been reached.
Moreover, “an attorney of record is presumed to have authority to compromise and settle
litigation of his client.” Quesada, 701 F.3d at 1083-84; see also Demilia v. United Student Aid
Funds, 2001 WL 1543491 (E.D. La. Dec. 3, 2001).
For these reasons, the court finds that the parties entered into binding and enforceable
settlement agreements. The court further finds the terms of the agreements to be quite clear in
that Ingram must dismiss her claims against Defendants with prejudice and, in return,
Defendants shall not pursue any claims against Ingram in connection with the instant litigation.
Because the court finds Defendants’ motion to enforce settlement to be meritorious, it declines to
address Defendants’ alternative motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Based on the foregoing discussion, the court finds that the defendants’ joint motion to
enforce settlement agreements is well-taken and should be granted. A separate order in accord
with this opinion shall issue this day.
This, the 12th day of February, 2018.
/s/ Neal Biggers
NEAL B. BIGGERS, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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?