the defendant at her word and assume, arguendo, that Mr. Lee was calculating the unemployment benefits the defendant was legally entitled to, at no time did Mr. Lee, or the defendant, express that without the guaranteed legal availability of unemployment benefits, the parties had no agreement. The Church never agreed that their undertaking was somehow contingent upon defendant's success or her being legally entitled to receiving unemployment benefits.
Instructive to us is the case of Wilson v. Wilson, which, like the instant case, involved parties that had reached a tentative settlement out of court, then appeared in court to confirm the specifics of the agreement. Wilson, 46 F.3d at 665. In the present case the parties, simultaneously, appeared in open court to finalize a settlement agreement arrived at in court chambers. In Wilson, the court held that the proper time for a party to challenge the existence of a settlement agreement is when the parties are before the court. Id. at 665. In the present case neither party attempted to challenge the settlement agreement when they appeared in open court; instead, each party agreed to the terms of the settlement agreement, on the record, as elicited by the court. (Tr. 5-6).
We find that the "calculations" to which Mr. Lee referred were neither a material element of the agreement or a modification of the terms of the agreement. The record makes it clear that the Church only agreed not to contest defendant's claim for unemployment benefits if she chose to pursue them--nothing more, nothing less. Reading anything more into the agreement ignores the clarity of the agreement concerning this term. Indeed, the defendant's intentions in now opposing this motion are clear--she wants money for her silence. (Def. Mem. at 8) Since defendant learned that unemployment benefits were not available to her and that the terms of the agreement did not provide her with any compensation, she attempts to construe the agreement into either being incomplete and preliminary, or to find a reading in which the Church is somehow a guarantor of her unemployment benefits. Looking to the unambiguous record in this case, this court can only conclude that Mr. Lee's on the record discussion of these "calculations" was merely an expression of hope that his client would somehow be entitled to unemployment benefits, since he admittedly had some doubts whether the defendant would even qualify for benefits due to the fact that the Church has never contributed to the fund. (Def. Mem. at 9) The later concern for "calculations had no effect on the objective meaning to the agreed terms and in this regard, even the defendant notes that the objective meaning of the language chosen by the parties is controlling. (Def. Mem. at 8) FDIC v. W.R. Grace & Co., 877 F.2d 614, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1989) This court simply cannot accept the defendant's claim that the agreement was incomplete simply because she later learned she was not eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
The defendant further proposes the arguments that the court should believe that the discussions, on the record involving the "calculations," which immediately followed the parties' recitation of the terms, demonstrated that the terms were too indefinite to be a "complete" settlement agreement. Again, we disagree. A close analysis of the transcript itself reveals that the plaintiff's mentioning of Mr. Lee's need to do some "calculations to confirm what we believe will be the case" and Mr. Lee's desire to make sure the numbers contemplated "check out," while ambiguous, does not modify or comprise any term of the agreement reached on the record on September 14. It bears mentioning again: the parties had only agreed the Church would not contest a claim for unemployment benefits. That was the extent of the agreement regarding unemployment benefits. There was no monetary qualification to that promise.
The record in this case is absent any mention of calculations to be done in order for the Church, in meeting its obligations under the agreement, to refrain from contesting a claim by defendant for unemployment benefits -- just the opposite seems true -- either it contests a claim and breaches the agreement, or does not contest a claim and complies with the agreement. We find the comments by defendant's attorney, coming after the affirmation of the terms of the agreement, simply his method of expressing some hope that the agreement would work out well for his client. His disappointment in the apparent result will, nonetheless, not undermine the existence of the contractual agreement between the parties. Petty, 849 F.2d at 133. Accordingly, we hold that the terms articulated at September 14, 1995 hearing formed a binding agreement between the parties. Since the agreement also included dismissal of the action, that aspect likewise will be accorded.
For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ordered that plaintiff's motion to enforce the oral settlement agreement reached on September 14, 1995, before the court, is hereby GRANTED. The court finds that the parties are bound to the terms of such agreements as expressed in open court on September 14, 1995. It is further ordered that this case is hereby DISMISSED.
EDWARD A. BOBRICK
United States Magistrate Judge
DATE: May 29, 1996