NICHOLAS J. BUA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nearly one year after judgment was entered in this case, the litigants are still trying to stake out their rights and liabilities. The dispute centers around a defective motor home that was manufactured by Executive Industries, Inc. ("Executive"), and distributed by Motor Vacations Unlimited, Inc. ("Motor Vacations"). The purchasers of the motor home, Kenneth and Marlene Schaap, filed suit against those two companies to recover damages stemming from the defects. The case proceeded to trial and, on May 31, 1990, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs. The parties then entered into settlement negotiations. Plaintiffs contend that a settlement was finally reached on December 18, 1990. When defendants refused to abide by the settlement agreement, plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the agreement. The court referred that motion to Magistrate Judge Joan H. Lefkow. In a report and recommendation dated January 28, 1991, the magistrate judge recommended that this court grant plaintiffs' motion.
Before a court will enforce a settlement agreement, the traditional elements of a contract must be present. The parties will be bound by the agreement if "there is clearly an offer to compromise and acceptance and there is a meeting of the minds as to the terms of the agreement." McAllister v. Hayes, 165 Ill. App. 3d 426, 427, 519 N.E.2d 71, 72, 116 Ill. Dec. 481 (1988). Without establishing the existence of these elements, plaintiffs cannot prevail on their motion to enforce the settlement agreement. On the other hand, if a settlement has been reached, the terms of the agreement will be given full force and effect. Id. After all, settlement benefits not only the litigants, but the judicial system as well.
After reviewing defendants' objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the court concludes that a settlement was reached in this case. The settlement arose from the following sequence of events.
On October 16, 1990, after several months of negotiations, defendants extended a settlement proposal to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were not amenable to all of the terms of this proposal, and settlement negotiations reached an impasse. On December 4, 1990, this court presided over a settlement conference, during which the parties found new inspiration to settle. The parties decided to revise the original settlement proposal. Following the conference, plaintiffs promptly sent a letter to defendants outlining their understanding of the proposed revisions. The letter specifically addressed four settlement terms that were discussed at the conference.
In a letter dated December 5, 1990, defendants responded to each of the four points set forth in plaintiffs' December 4 letter. For the most part, defendants agreed to the revisions. But defendants took issue with a proposed revision to the payment schedule. Plaintiffs had contemplated that the first monthly installment payment would be made on January 1, 1991, with the payments continuing until July 1, 1991. Defendants, in their December 5 letter, proposed that the first installment payment be made March 1, 1991 (rather than January 1) and that payments continue until August 1, 1991.
The magistrate judge characterized defendants' December 5 letter as the central offer for settlement. Defendants do not contest this finding; instead, they argue that plaintiffs did not effect a valid acceptance of the offer. The issue, then, is whether plaintiffs accepted defendants' offer.
Plaintiffs first responded to the offer on December 7, 1990. They indicated that defendants' proposal with respect to the payment schedule was unacceptable:
Executive proposes that the December 1, 1990 payment of $ 20,000 be pushed back to March 1, 1991. The Schaaps have serious reservations about this additional concession in light of the uncertainty of Executive's financial situation. The Schaaps were willing to make the initial concession to push the December 1 payment back to January 1, 1991. They are unwilling at this time to make any further concessions due to the delays they have already experienced.
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