Fritz Dairy Farm LLC et al v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C. et al
Order granting Defendants' Motion to enforce (Related Doc # 20 ) the settlement agreement reached before the Court during the status conference in this matter. Judge John R. Adams on 3/1/13.(L,J)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Fritz Dairy Farm, LLC, et al.,
Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, et al.,
CASE NO.: 5:12CV1736
JUDGE JOHN ADAMS
Pending before the Court is a motion to enforce settlement filed by Defendants. Plaintiffs
opposed the motion, and the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on February 13, 2013. The
motion to enforce is GRANTED. This order is placed under seal due to the parties’ agreement
regarding the confidentiality of the terms of their settlement.
In their motion, Defendants seek to enforce the settlement agreement reached during a
conference before this Court on December 17, 2012. In response, Plaintiffs contend that this
Court lacks jurisdiction over the entirety of this matter and that no agreement was ever reached by
Initially, the Court would note that jurisdiction has been established in this Court.
Plaintiffs’ contentions regarding Defendant Owen focus upon his notary application form with the
state of Ohio. Regardless of whether or not Owen placed false statements on that form, his sworn
affidavit before this Court establishes that he is not a resident of Ohio. Accordingly, diversity
jurisdiction was properly invoked when Defendants removed this matter.
Next, Plaintiffs assert that the parties never reached an agreement. Specifically, Plaintiffs
contend that their counsel was not authorized to agree to the terms offered by Defendants. In that
regard, the Court notes as follows. First, Mr. and Mrs. Fritz were present at the outset of the
Court’s status conference on December 17, 2012. As the matter proceeded, the Court released
them from their obligation to be present to facilitate their return to the family farm, only after they
expressed the need to care for their dairy cows. At the time of their release, all parties were
negotiating a possible settlement. The Court specifically discussed that matter with the Fritzes
and told them to be certain that their attorney could continue negotiations. They assured the
Court that this was the case and left the status conference.
After the Fritzes left the conference, negotiations continued and a settlement was
ultimately reached. The Court then required the parties to place the terms of the settlement on the
record before the Court. The Fritz’s counsel, Attorney Leiby, then recited the terms of the
parties’ agreement as follows:
Yes, we’ve agreed modification of the lease from a five-year lease with a five-year
renewal term -- the recorded lease to a lease of an entire term of seven and a half
years with no right of renewal.
The payment by the defendants to the plaintiffs of $10,000.
The further modification of the recorded lease to provide for reclamation of the
land upon termination of the lease, as well as to provide additional protections for
the water supply on the property.
The Court then asked the following:
I know I’ve allowed your clients to leave given the nature of their occupation. You
have represented to the court you have full and complete settlement authority, and
you’ve conferred with your clients and they agreed to the settlement?
Attorney Leiby responded: “I’ve conferred with my clients. They’ve agreed with the settlement.”
The Court then inquired about whether confidentiality would be an issue in the agreement.
Counsel for Defendants indicated that the amount of the settlement would need to remain
confidential and Attorney Leiby responded that he had no objection to this term.
During the Court’s hearing, Attorney Leiby conceded that he had not, prior to the Court’s
question, informed the Fritzes about the issue of confidentiality. The Fritzes seize upon this
admission and contend that this is a material term and that this concession demonstrates that they
never agreed to such a term. However, that is not the evidence before the Court. Rather, the
evidence is that an officer of the Court, Attorney Leiby, represented that he had full authority to
settle the matter on behalf of his clients. Whether a specific term was relayed to the Fritzes before
or after the Court put the terms on the record is immaterial to whether Attorney Leiby had the
authority he represented to the Court.
In that regard, the Court heard testimony from Mrs. Fritz and Attorney Leiby. The two
have wildly different recollections of Attorney Leiby’s representation and his scope of authority.
Having had the opportunity to observe both as witnesses and Mrs. Fritz throughout the
proceedings in this matter, the Court finds Attorney Leiby to be more credible. Accordingly, the
Court will rely upon his statements in open court that he had the full authority to enter into the
settlement under the terms stated in open court.
Accordingly, the motion to enforce is GRANTED. Plaintiffs shall immediately take all
steps necessary to execute the settlement documents and comply with their terms.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
March 1, 2013
/s/ John R. Adams
JUDGE JOHN R. ADAMS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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