Hatcher v. Cleveland Clinic Foundation et al
Opinion and Order. Plaintiff's Motion to Vacate (Related Doc # 19 ) is denied. Judge Christopher A. Boyko on 12/27/2016.(H,CM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
FOUNDATION, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:16CV33
JUDGE CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, J.:
This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion (ECF DKT #19) of Plaintiff pro
se, Sharon Hatcher, to Vacate. Following an oral hearing and for the reasons stated, the
Motion to Vacate is denied.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On September 20, 2016, the above-captioned matter came before the Court for a
Settlement Conference. After a period of negotiation, the parties advised the Court that a
resolution had been reached. Therefore, the Court entered its Order (ECF DKT #17),
retaining jurisdiction to enforce the agreement, alter its terms or vacate and re-open the case.
Citing a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, Plaintiff’s counsel moved to
withdraw on September 28, 2016 (ECF DKT #18); and that request was granted on the
On October 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a letter which the Court treated as a Motion to
Vacate. Plaintiff stated that she did not authorize her counsel to accept the settlement amount.
On November 10, 2016, the Court ordered Plaintiff’s former attorney to submit an
affidavit regarding the allegations in Plaintiff’s letter and the court proceedings of September
20, 2016. The Affidavit was filed under seal on November 18, 2016.
On November 22, 2016, the Court set the Motion to Vacate for Oral Argument on
December 21, 2016. On that date, the Court heard sworn testimony from Plaintiff and from
her former counsel, James Hux.
II. LAW AND ANALYSIS
Relief from Final Judgment, Order, or Proceeding
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) provides: “On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party
or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence ...;
(3) fraud ...;
(4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged ...;
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.”
However, “relief under Rule 60(b) is circumscribed by public policy favoring finality
of judgments and termination of litigation.” Info-Hold, Inc. v. Sound Merchandising, Inc.,
538 F.3d 448, 454 (6th Cir.2008), citing Blue Diamond Coal Co. v. Trs. of UMWA Combined
Benefit Fund, 249 F.3d 519, 524 (6th Cir.2001). “Accordingly, the party seeking relief under
Rule 60(b) bears the burden of establishing the grounds for such relief by clear and
convincing evidence.” Info-Hold, 528 F.3d at 454. “The parties may not use a Rule 60(b)
motion as a substitute for an appeal, ... , or as a technique to avoid the consequences of
decisions deliberately made yet later revealed to be unwise.” (internal citation omitted).
Hopper v. Euclid Manor Nursing Home, Inc., 867 F.2d 291, 294 (6th Cir.1989) ; Federal’s,
Inc. v. Edmonton Investment Co., 555 F.2d 577, 583 (6th Cir.1977).
“Agreements settling litigation are solemn undertakings, invoking a duty upon the
involved lawyers, as officers of the court, to make every reasonable effort to see that the
agreed terms are fully and timely carried out.” Aro Corp. v. Allied Witan Co., 531 F.2d 1368,
1372 (6th Cir.1976). Thus, courts are obliged to uphold settlement agreements whenever
equitable and policy considerations allow. See id.; Bobonik v. Medina General Hosp., 126
F.App’x 270, 273 (6th Cir. 2005).
“The power of a trial court to enter a judgment enforcing a settlement agreement has
its basis in the policy favoring the settlement of disputes and the avoidance of costly and
time-consuming litigation.” Kukla v. National Distillers Prods., Co., 483 F.2d 619, 621 (6th
Cir.1973) (citations omitted).
In the instant matter, Plaintiff testified that, on September 20, 2016, she did not agree
to the settlement figure and that she was shocked, baffled and nearly brought to tears.
Plaintiff further testified that she has been involved in at least two settlement conferences.
Additionally, in her current employment she has had experience with the negotiation process.
Attorney Hux testified that, after an exchange of demands and offers, the parties had
reached a temporary impasse. He asked Plaintiff for a figure, if offered, that she would be
willing to accept. She provided that figure; Defendants offered that amount; and Attorney
Hux informed Plaintiff that a resolution had been reached. He further testified that Plaintiff
was disappointed but “fine” with the agreement. They shook hands and parted amicably.
Attorney Hux testified that Plaintiff did not appear shocked nor was she crying. It was not
until the following day that Plaintiff called Hux’s office in an attempt to revoke the
Upon consideration of Plaintiff’s letter, Counsel’s affidavit and their sworn testimony,
the Court finds no justification for vacating the settlement. Based upon Plaintiff’s demeanor
on the stand and her acknowledged familiarity with the negotiation process, the Court is
convinced that Plaintiff would have voiced her disapproval with Defendants’ offer and would
have demanded that her attorney tell the Court that he was not authorized to accept it.
Further, the Court is mindful that Attorney Hux is an officer of the court; that he understands
his professional obligations, as well as the consequences of lying under oath to a federal
This determination comes down to credibility. In light of the documents filed and the
testimony offered on the witness stand, the Court finds that Attorney Hux’s version of the
events of September 20, 2016 is more credible.
Therefore, the Court holds that Plaintiff cannot avoid the consequences of her
knowing and deliberate decision. The Motion (ECF DKT #19) of Plaintiff pro se, Sharon
Hatcher, to Vacate is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Christopher A. Boyko
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
United States District Judge
Dated: December 27, 2016
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