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BUCHBINDER v. WEISSER COMPANIES

November 23, 1987

LEE BUCHBINDER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEISSER COMPANIES, INC., WEISSER OPTICAL COMPANY, WEISSER OPTICAL COMPANY-SPRINGFIELD, WEISSER UNION OPTICAL COMPANY, B & P INVESTMENTS, INC., JOLIET OPTICAL COMPANY, MEDICARE OPTICS & OPTICAL COMPANY, NEU OPTICAL COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mihm, District Judge.

ORDER

This case is before the Court on the Motions of Plaintiff to enforce the settlement and to join party. The issue on these Motions is whether the Court should enforce an alleged oral settlement agreement between the parties, where the settlement agreement encompasses both state law and federal law causes of actions. The Court finds that it should not. After reviewing the briefs and affidavits submitted by the parties, and hearing oral arguments, the Court submits the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Plaintiff, Lee Buchbinder (hereinafter "Buchbinder"), was formerly employed by one or more of the corporate Defendants. Subsequent to the termination of his employment in 1985, he filed several pieces of litigation. In the instant action, he alleges that he was discharged on the basis of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Local 536 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, of which Buchbinder is a member, also filed a lawsuit in this Court seeking enforcement of an arbitrator's decision which had reinstated Buchbinder to employment.

2. Buchbinder also filed an action in Illinois state court, seeking recovery for an alleged breach of a written contract of employment between Buchbinder and Weisser Optical Company and Weisser Companies, Inc.

3. Phillip Hirsch (hereinafter "Hirsch"), president of the corporate Defendants, had not been named a party to any of this litigation prior to June 8, 1987, when the Tenth Circuit Court of Illinois allowed Buchbinder to amend his complaint to allege an intentional interference with the contract of employment by Hirsch.

4. From May until December of 1986, Buchbinder's counsel and counsel for Defendants had continuing discussions concerning potential settlement of the three actions filed by Buchbinder. The substantive provisions which were negotiated during these discussions were reported at each step by defense counsel to Defendants' principal, Hirsch.

5. On December 8, 1986, this Court was advised by counsel for the parties that this matter had been settled.

6. On January 23, 1987, Buchbinder's counsel tendered a written agreement to Defendants' attorney for the signature of Phillip Hirsch. Defendants' attorney made minor, non-substantive modifications to the agreement.

7. According to the settlement agreement, all three court cases were to be settled for one lump settlement amount, with no apportionment among the various underlying claims.

8. On February 17, 1987, Defendants' attorney advised Plaintiff's counsel that Hirsch refused to execute the documents.

9. In response to Hirsch's refusal to sign the settlement agreement, Buchbinder filed a Motion to Enforce the Settlement Agreement, in the form proposed by his counsel on January 23, 1987, and filed a related Motion to Join Hirsch, in his individual capacity, as a party Defendant. The basis of the Motion to Join Hirsch as a party Defendant was that he had allegedly agreed to personally guarantee the settlement agreement.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

1. The dispositive issue in this case is whether this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Buchbinder's state court claim. While it is well-established that a federal court may enforce a settlement reached in an action pending before it, this principle only applies if the underlying substantive rights of the parties are created by federal law or are ancillary to the ...


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