Cooke et al v. Meritor, Inc. et al
ORDER granting 557 Motion to Enforce Settlement as to Thyra Craig. Signed by District Judge Debra M. Brown on 11/27/19. (jla)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
KATHERINE LONGSTREET COOKE,
MERITOR, INC., et al.
On July 2, 2019, Meritor, Inc., Rockwell Automation, Inc., and the Boeing Company
(collectively, “Meritor Defendants”) filed a motion to enforce a settlement agreement between
them and Thyra Craig. Doc. #557. No response to the motion has been filed.
“[F]ederal courts possess the inherent power to enforce agreements entered into in
settlement of litigation ….” Sundown Energy, L.P. v. Haller, 773 F.3d 606, 611 (5th Cir. 2014).
In a diversity case such as this, “the construction and enforcement of settlement agreements is
governed by the principles of state law applicable to contracts generally.” Id. Under Mississippi
law, “in order for a settlement agreement to be enforced, the party claiming the benefit of
enforcement must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there was a meeting of the
minds.” Ill. Cent. R.R. Co. v. Byrd, 44 So. 3d 943, 948 (Miss. 2010).
In evaluating the movant’s burden, enforcement may be ordered summarily when the
settlement agreement sought to be enforced was reached in a case pending before the court and so
long as there are no “disputed issues of the validity and scope of the agreement.” Mid-South
Towing Co. v. Har-Win, Inc., 733 F.2d 386, 390–91 (5th Cir. 1984). Here, because no response to
the motion was filed, and because the motion and accompanying exhibits1 adequately present the
relevant record, the Court finds no disputed issues which would justify an evidentiary hearing.
On October 12, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge Jane M. Virden noticed a settlement
conference for March 5–6, 2019, regarding property damage and personal injury claims in nine
separate actions related to the operation of a manufacturing facility in Grenada, Mississippi, by
Meritor, Inc., the Boeing Company, Rockwell Automation, Inc., and Textron, Inc. Doc. #504.
The notice required that “Counsel, Defendant(s) or Representative(s) with full settlement
authority” be in attendance “unless excused by the Court.” Id. at 1. It further required that the
plaintiffs, all residents or former residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the facility, “be
available, at least, by telephone on both days.” Id.
At some point after the mediation, counsel for the Meritor Defendants prepared a
Confidential General and Absolute Release Agreement (“Agreement”) which required that Craig
execute certain release documents dismissing her claims with prejudice in exchange for a sum
certain. The Agreement was sent to Craig’s counsel. J. Dennis Weitzel and William Liston, both
counsel for Craig, agreed to the terms of the Agreement in separate e-mails dated March 29, 2019,
and April 1, 2019, respectively.
To establish a meeting of the minds under Mississippi law and, thus, an enforceable
contract, “six elements must be present: (1) two or more contracting parties, (2) consideration, (3)
The Court authorized the Meritor Defendants to submit additional documents in support of its motion. See Doc.
an agreement that is sufficiently definite, (4) parties with legal capacity to make a contract, (5)
mutual assent, and (6) no legal prohibition precluding contract formation.” Estate of Davis v.
O’Neill, 42 So. 3d 520, 527 (Miss. 2010) (quotation marks omitted). An agreement to settle a
lawsuit may be oral. See generally WRH Props., Inc. v. Estate of Johnson, 759 So. 2d 394, 396–
97 (Miss. 2000) (considering possibility of oral settlement though finding one did not exist under
There is no dispute that the Agreement involved two or more contracting parties (the
Meritor Defendants and Craig); included adequate consideration (a sum of money in exchange for
the release of claims with prejudice); or was sufficiently definite (included a specific sum for each
plaintiff). See O’Neil, 42 So. 3d at 520.
As to capacity, Mississippi law “presumes that a person is sane and mentally capable to
enter into a contract.” Parks v. Parks, 914 So. 2d 337, 341 (Miss. Ct. App. 2005). Craig has
offered no evidence which would rebut this presumption. Accordingly, the capacity requirement
has been satisfied.
“The assent of the parties in the formation of a contract must necessarily be gathered from
their words, acts and outward expressions.” Hill v. Capps, 160 So. 2d 186, 190 (Miss. 1964).
Assent may be given by an agent of a party. Heritage Bldg. Prop., LLC v. Prime Income Asset
Mgmt., 43 So. 3d 1138, 1143 (Miss. Ct. App. 2009). There is no dispute that Liston and Weitzel
were acting as Craig’s agents or that they expressed assent to the agreement. Accordingly, the
assent requirement has also been satisfied.
Finally, Craig has cited no legal prohibition which would preclude the relevant contract
formation. Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that Textron has sustained its burden
of showing a meeting of minds based on the oral settlement agreement and that, therefore, the
motion to enforce must be granted.
The Meritor Defendants’ motion to enforce settlement  is GRANTED. Craig is
DIRECTED to execute within seven (7) days of the date of this order all documents to effectuate
the settlement between herself and the Meritor Defendants as set forth in the Agreement.
SO ORDERED, this 27th day of November, 2019.
/s/Debra M. Brown
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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