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Thies v. Life Insurance Co. of North America

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

December 20, 2013

ELIZABETH THIES, and MATTHEWTHIES, Plaintiffs,
v.
LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement of the Defendant, Life Insurance Company of North America ("LINA"). (Docket No. 23.) Plaintiffs Elizabeth and Matthew Thies have responded, (Docket No. 24), and LINA has replied, (Docket No. 25). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, LINA's Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The issues now before the Court are whether the parties agreed to an enforceable settlement, and if so, exactly what the terms of that settlement are. Because the Court considers simply a question of contract as it relates to the Settlement Agreement, a complete recitation of the litigation's underlying basis is unnecessary. It is sufficient to note that the parties' litigation concerns the accidental death insurance benefits associated with the death of Wade Thies, LINA's insured and the Plaintiffs' father. Plaintiffs seek interest from LINA based upon an alleged delay in paying their claim.

On September 10, 2013, in the course of mediation, the parties' counsel executed a handwritten Settlement Agreement. The material terms of settlement as memorialized in that document provide:

(1) To settle all claims, [Defendant] will pay $400, 000.00.
(2) Each party will bear their own litigation costs/expenses.
(3) Settlement funds to be paid within 10 days.
(4) Terms to be confidential, and release to include standard terms.
(5) Defendant to pay mediation costs in exchange for liquidated damages clause.

(Docket No. 23-2.) The parties struck through the portion Provision 4 that provided that the release would include standard terms, apparently because such terms were generally used in long-term disability ("LTD") cases and did not apply here. (Docket No. 23-1 at 4.) Counsel agreed that Plaintiffs would execute a formal settlement agreement incorporating these material terms. (Docket No. 23-1 at 1.)

LINA then drafted a Confidential Release of All Claims. Plaintiffs initially refused to execute this formal settlement agreement, objecting to its provisions regarding confidentiality. However, Plaintiffs ultimately executed two formal settlement agreements, one including LINA's preferred language and the other reflecting their own preferred language. (Docket Nos. 21-3 and 21-4.)

At the crux of the dispute is whether Paragraph 11 of the formal release should include the word "confidential." LINA's draft provides:

11. RELEASORS further agree that they will not cause to be made public or release to any news media or the internet, any information obtained from RELEASED PARTIES during the course of the litigation of the Civil Action, including but not limited to the contents of the documents produced to them and their counsel by RELEASED PARTIES during the ...

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