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CRUZ v. GLOBE REALTY MANAGEMENT CO.

December 13, 2005.

JOSIE CRUZ, Plaintiff,
v.
GLOBE REALTY MANAGEMENT CO., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES HOLDERMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On December 23, 2003, plaintiff Josie Cruz ("Cruz"), filed a two count complaint against defendant Globe Realty Management Co. ("Globe"), pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. (Dkt. No. 1). Globe answered the complaint and discovery proceeded in the case. (Dkt. No. 7). After a period of discovery, and with the assistance of Magistrate Judge Ashman, the parties in early March 2005 settled the case. Included in the settlement agreement was Globe's agreement to install, among other things, an outdoor ramp and an indoor wheelchair lift to accommodate the residents, including Cruz, at 6920 South Crandon Avenue. The agreed upon items were not installed in the building in the time frame by the parties. Plaintiff Cruz, in turn, sought an order to show cause which has now been resolved. (Dkt. Nos. 31, 34). On November 4, 2005, Cruz filed the pending motion seeking compensation, attorneys fees' and costs resulting from Globe's alleged breach of the parties' settlement agreement. (Dkt. No. 35). For the reasons set forth below, Cruz's motion for compensation, attorneys' fees and costs is granted. BACKGROUND

Cruz lives at 6920 South Crandon Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. (Dkt. No. 36-2, at pg. 1). She has a physical disability and relies on a motorized scooter for mobility. (Id.) 6920 South Crandon is a multifamily apartment building owned by Globe that receives a federal housing subsidy. (Id.) As alleged in Cruz's initial complaint, 6920 South Crandon "was not accessible to people with disabilities in that the front door could be entered only by stairs. This in turn required Cruz to use an inconvenient and, for her, dangerous delivery ramp leading to the basement." (Dkt. No. 36-1 at pg. 1).

  As mentioned above, after several months of discovery, the parties entered into a settlement agreement dated March 3, 2005 and this court entered an agreed order of dismissal on March 15, 2005. (Dkt. Nos. 22, 23). This court's March 15, 2005 order: (1) instructed the parties to comply with the terms of the March 3, 2005 settlement agreement, (2) explicitly stated that this court retained jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing the terms of the settlement agreement through March 30, 2006, and (3) otherwise dismissed the case with prejudice with each party to bear its own attorneys' fees and costs. (Dkt. No. 23).

  The settlement agreement required Globe to build an outdoor concrete ramp and indoor wheelchair lift at the main, front entrance of 6920 South Crandon Street by May 30, 2005. (Dkt. No. 36-2 at pg. 2). If Globe was unable to meet the May 30, 2005 deadline, Globe was required to inform Cruz's counsel in writing of: (1) the efforts made to comply with the deadline, (2) the reasons for the delay, (3) the date that Globe reasonably expected to complete the work, and (4) the reasons why Globe believed the work would be completed by that future time. (Id. at pg. 2-3). The settlement agreement required the parties to endeavor in good faith to informally resolve any differences over the implementation of the settlement agreement. (Id. at pg. 3). However, Cruz had a right to seek from this court any appropriate remedies for any breaches of the settlement agreement by Globe if the parties could not resolve their differences. (Id. at pg. 4). She was also authorized to seek attorneys' fees incurred for any litigation that she had to undertake in response to a breach by Globe. (Id.)

  Although Globe promised in the settlement agreement to completed the project by May 30, 2005, the project was not completed until October 27, 2005. Cruz could not access her home via the front entrance of 6920 South Crandon until the entire project was completed because she needed both the wheelchair ramp and lift for access. Cruz did not benefit from any partial performance by Globe that occurred before October 27, 2005. Cruz argues that Globe breached the settlement agreement through its continued delays and the need for her to return to this court and seek judicial assistance in enforcing the settlement agreement.

  This court participated through the holding of status hearings on August 2, 2005 and August 23, 2005, (Dkt. Nos. 27, 28), granting Globe's motion for modification of the agreed order to extend time for the completion of the project on October 6, 2005, (Dkt. No. 33), and providing a forum for Cruz to file her October 4, 2005 motion for a rule to show cause why Globe should not be held in contempt for violation of the settlement agreement. (Dkt. No. 31).

  On October 27, 2005, this court mooted Cruz's October 4, 2005 rule to show cause motion when Globe represented during the status hearing that the wheelchair ramp and lift were both in place and operational. (Dkt. No. 34). Despite mooting Cruz's motion, this court did, however, allow Cruz leave to file the present motion for compensation, attorneys' fees and costs at the October 27, 2005 status hearing. (Id.)

  ANALYSIS

  Cruz argues in her present motion that "[i]n resolving [her initial lawsuit], and in exchange for immediate safe access to her building, [she] gave up remedies she could have otherwise sought at trial, including compensatory damages. . . . Despite this agreement, however, [Cruz] did not realize the benefits of this exchange for over six months and only after [this court's] intervention." (Dkt. No. 36-1 at pg. 2). Cruz seeks $14,139.54 in attorneys' fees and costs and $8,000.00 in compensatory damages for Globe's alleged violation of the March 3, 2005 settlement agreement. (Dkt. No. 36-1 at pg. 1). Globe counters that Cruz's motion should be denied because Cruz is not a "prevailing party," most of Cruz's requested fees and costs are not reasonable, and Cruz is not entitled to compensatory damages because the agreement was never breached.

  A. The Court's Subject Matter Jurisdiction

  "Settlement agreements are contracts," Seymour v. Hug, No. 04 C 2041, 2005 WL 3019418, at *13 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2005) (citing Laserage Tech. Corp. v. Laserage Lab. Inc., 972 F.2d 799, 802 (7th Cir. 1992); McCall-Bey v. Franzen, 777 F.2d 1178, 1186 (7th Cir. 1985)), and "[d]isputes about settlement contracts must be resolved in state court, unless they independently satisfy the requirements of federal jurisdiction." Goulding v. Global Med. Prod. Holdings, Inc., 394 F.3d 466, 467-68 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349 (1996); Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375 (1994)). "A settlement agreement, unless it is embodied in a consent decree or some other judicial order or unless jurisdiction to enforce the agreement is retained (meaning that the suit has not been dismissed with prejudice), is enforced just like any other contract." Lynch, Inc. v. SamataMason Inc., 279 F.3d 487, 489 (7th Cir. 2002) (emphasis in original) (citing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 380-81; Jessup v. Luther, 277 F.3d 926, 929 (7th Cir. 2002)).

  The parties' March 3, 2005 settlement agreement required that the order dismissing the action shall state that this court retains jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 36-2 at pg. 10). This court's March 15, 2005 agreed order explicitly noted that the court was retaining jurisdiction for the purposes of enforcing the terms of the settlement agreement through March 30, 2006. (Dkt. No. 23 at ¶ 2). This court has subject ...


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