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Meadows v. City of Dry Ridge

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

July 3, 2017

DEBORAH MEADOWS PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF DRY RIDGE, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          DAVID L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Defendant City of Dry Ridge ("Dry Ridge"), Defendant Clay Crupper in his individual capacity, and Defendant Clay Crupper in his official capacity (collectively "Defendants") have moved to enforce the settlement agreement with Plaintiff Deborah Meadows. (Doc. # 27). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Hearing or Oral Argument Regarding Motion to Enforce Settlement. (Doc. # 36). Both motions are fully briefed (Docs. # 34, 35, and 37) and ripe for the Court's review.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant action (Doc. # 1) asserting claims of First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations arising out of her arrest and dispute with Defendants concerning her water bills. (Doc. # 34 at 1).

         On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff and Defendants participated in a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Wehrman. (Doc. # 23). Although they were unable to reach an agreement, the parties agreed to continue negotiations. Id. On March 23, 2017, after discussing the matter with Plaintiff and acting with her supposed authorization Plaintiffs counsel[1] sent Defendants' counsel an e-mail which reads in relevant part:

This e-mail is to confirm our settlement in Meadows v. Dry Ridge, etal., 15-cv-61, for a total of $50, 000 - $5, 000 going to Ms. Meadows and $45, 000 going to O'Hara, Taylor, Sloan & Cassidy for fees and costs. As agreed, there will be no confidentiality provision connected to this settlement. We will provide you with our firm's W-9 in the near future.

         (Doc. # 27 at Exhibit A). Within an hour, Defendants' attorney responded, agreeing and saying that they would "draft and send a Release and AOD." Id. That same day, Magistrate Judge Wehrman issued an Order stating that the case had been settled. (Doc. #24).

         However, Plaintiff later informed her attorney that she no longer wanted to accept the settlement. (Doc. # 34 at 2). Plaintiff claimed that "she felt pressured to settle and did not believe she would be committed to a settlement until she signed an agreement." Id. Both parties agree that Plaintiff never signed a written agreement; however, Defendants maintain that the March 23, 2017 e-mail exchange created an enforceable settlement. (Doc. # 27 at 4). Accordingly, on April 21, 2017, Defendants moved to enforce the settlement agreement. (Doc. # 27). Plaintiff denies the existence of an enforceable settlement (Doc. # 34), and on June 14, 2017, requested an evidentiary hearing to resolve an alleged factual dispute as to whether or not she knowingly and voluntarily accepted the terms of settlement. (Doc. # 36).[2]

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Need for an Evidentiary Hearing

         Plaintiff has requested an evidentiary hearing (Doc. # 36) on Defendants' pending Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. # 27) pursuant to Kentucky Federal Court Rule 7.1(f), which permits parties to request oral argument in a motion. Plaintiff alternatively claims that oral argument is needed to resolve the factual dispute as to whether she knowingly and voluntarily accepted the settlement agreement. (Doc. # 36 at 1). Because the Court finds that the parties' agreement contains no factual dispute, Plaintiff's Motion for a Hearing or Oral Argument Regarding Motion to Enforce Settlement is denied.

         While the Court has the power to summarily enforce settlement agreements, it is customary to grant a party's request for an evidentiary hearing if there is a substantial factual dispute. Aro Corp. v. Allied Witan Co., 531 F.2d 1368, 1372 (6th Cir. 1976); see also Noga v. Parts Assocs., Inc., No. 98-3789, 2000 WL 178385 at *2 (6th Cir. Feb. 8, 2000). "However, no evidentiary hearing is required where an agreement is clear and unambiguous and no issue of fact is present." RE/MAX Int'l, Inc. v. Realty One, Inc., 271 F.3d 633, 646 (6th Cir. 2001). Thus, to determine whether Plaintiff's request for an evidentiary hearing should be granted, the court must first determine whether the parties' settlement agreement was unambiguous or whether a substantial factual dispute remains.

         Because settlement agreements are a form of contract, they are subject to the substantive contract law of the forum state. Bamerilease Capital Corp. v. Nearburg,958 F.2d 150, 152 (6th Cir. 1992); see also Hageman v. Signal LP. Gas, Inc.,486 F.2d 479, 487 (6th Cir. 1973); Edwards v. Hocking Valley Cmty. Hosp., 87 F.App'x 542, 550 (6th Cir. 2004); Smith v. ABN AMRO Mortg. Grp. Inc., 434 F.App'x 454, 460 (6th Cir. 2011). Under Kentucky law, [3] settlement agreements must satisfy "the requirements associated with contracts generally, i.e., offer and acceptance, full and complete terms, and consideration." Cantrell Supply, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 94 S.W.3d 381, 384 (Ky. ...


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