Roop v. Kansas City Southern Railway Company
OPINION AND ORDER by Magistrate Judge Steven P. Shreder granting in part and denying in part 71 MOTION to Enforce Settlement and MOTION for Attorney Fees by Kansas City Southern Railway Company. (ndd, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
KANSAS CITY SOUTHER RAILWAY )
Case No. CIV-16-413-SPS
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANT KANSAS CITY RAILWAY
COMPANY’S MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT
The Plaintiff Deon Roop brought suit against the Defendant Kansas City Railway
Company (“KCS”) seeking damages under 49 U.S.C. § 20109, upon allegations that KCS
retaliated against him for engaging in activities protected by the Federal Railroad Safety
Act (“FRSA”). The parties participated in a court-ordered settlement conference before
Judge Kimberly E. West on August 14, 2017, but failed to reach a settlement agreement
at that time. See Docket No. 41. The parties thereafter did reach a preliminary agreement
through the efforts of Judge West, but a dispute arose as to the terms of the agreement.
KCS filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement and for an Order Awarding Fees and Expenses
[Docket No. 71], which the Court set for hearing on November 8, 2017. See, e.g., United
States v. Hardage, 982 F.2d 1491, 1496 (10th Cir. 1993) (“[T]he majority of our sister
circuits agree that where material facts concerning the existence of terms of an agreement
to settle are in dispute, the parties must be allowed an evidentiary hearing.”) [collecting
cases]. As set forth below, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED in part
and DENIED in part.
Counsel for the respective parties clarified the issues at the hearing on November
8, 2017. The parties were unable to settle the case at the settlement conference because
of a demand by Roop (terminated by KCS for disciplinary reasons) to be reinstated with
back pay. This issue was later resolved through arbitration, i. e., the Public Law Board
ordered Roop reinstated without back pay, and counsel for the parties thereupon resumed
settlement discussions. They exchanged a number of offers and counteroffers through
Judge West between November 1 and November 6, on which date KCS accepted Roop’s
final counteroffer of $100,000.00. A dispute thereafter arose as to whether the agreement
included expungement of Roop’s disciplinary record; counsel for KCS noted that this was
never discussed and therefore contended that it was not part of the settlement agreement.
Counsel for Roop conceded there was no explicit discussion of expungement but noted it
was a customary implicit term such as confidentiality (which was likewise not discussed
explicitly) and therefore contended that it was part of the settlement agreement.
Judge West confirmed much of the foregoing at the hearing. She testified that the
“stumbling block” to resolving the case at settlement conference was Roop’s demand for
reinstatement with back pay. She did not recall discussing the expungement of Roop’s
disciplinary (during the settlement conference or the telephone conversations thereafter),
and her notes do not reflect that there was any such discussion. When she learned that
Roop had obtained reinstatement through arbitration (albeit without back pay), she called
his attorney in an attempt to restart settlement discussions as to the remaining issue of
damages. Counsel made a monetary demand, which Judge West relayed to counsel for
KCS. They attorneys exchanged monetary offers through Judge West over the next few
days, and on November 6, 2017, counsel indicated that Roop’s bottom-dollar offer was
$100,000.00 and that he would not “stair step” down any further. Judge West relayed
this offer to opposing counsel, who accepted on behalf of KCS. When Judge West called
Roop’s attorney to confirm the settlement, he indicated for the first time that settlement
would have to include expungement of Roop’s disciplinary record. Counsel for KCS also
advised Judge West that expungement had become an issue. When asked about this at
hearing, Judge West testified that she believed there was an offer by Roop, accepted by
KCSR, to settle for $100,000.00, and the resulting settlement agreement did not include
the expungement of discipline or any other such implicit terms, such as confidentiality or
waiver, none of which were discussed prior to acceptance of Roop’s offer by KCS.
The Court finds that Roop’s offer to settle the case for $100,000.00 was accepted
by KCS, and that an enforceable settlement agreement was therefore reached on those
terms and no others. The settlement agreement does not include expungement of Roop’s
disciplinary record, confidentiality or any other implicit terms not discussed prior to
KCS’ acceptance of the offer. The Defendant Kansas City Southern Railway Company’s
Motion to Enforce Settlement and for an Order Awarding Fees and Expenses [Docket
No. 71] is accordingly hereby GRANTED to that extent. Upon payment by KCS of the
$100,000.00 settlement amount, the Court shall dismiss this case WITH PREJUDICE.
KCS has also sought an award of its costs, including attorneys’ fees, incurred in
seeking enforcement of the settlement agreement. Such an award is discretionary with
the Court, and the Court finds that its discretion would be best exercised by denying such
request. See Farmer v. Banco Popular of North America, 791 F.3d 1246, 1256-1257
(10th Cir. 2015). The Defendant Kansas City Southern Railway Company’s Motion to
Enforce Settlement and for an Order Awarding Fees and Expenses [Docket No. 71] is
accordingly hereby DENIED to that extent.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 30th day of November, 2017.
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