GREGORY STEINER and AGRISTAR FROZEN FOODS, INC., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
JEFFREY P. ECKERT, Defendant-Appellant Platinum Frozen Foods, Inc., Benchmark Holdings Group, Inc., Meadows Cold Storage, Inc., and Americe, Inc., Defendants.
Rehearing denied October 3, 2013
The trial court’s decision to enforce the parties’ settlement agreement as amended by their forbearance agreement was upheld on appeal, since the trial court had a proper basis for concluding that the parties had entered into a settlement agreement and, as modified by the forbearance agreement, the settlement agreement unambiguously provided for the entry of a judgment against defendant for $1 million if he was still in default after the expiration of the eight-month forbearance period.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County, No. 09-CH-2305; the Hon. Terence M. Sheen, Judge, presiding.
David Drenk, of Leoris & Cohen, P.C., of Highland Park, for appellant.
Neal H. Levin and Ryan W. Blackney, both of Freeborn & Peters LLP, of Chicago, for appellee.
Justices Hutchinson and Hudson concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant Jeffrey P. Eckert appeals from the order of the circuit court of Du Page County granting plaintiff Gregory Steiner's amended motion for enforcement of a settlement agreement and entering judgment in favor of Steiner for $1 million, and from the trial court's subsequent order denying Eckert's motion to vacate. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion either in granting the amended motion to enforce the settlement agreement or in entering judgment, we affirm.
¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND
¶ 3 Plaintiffs, Steiner and AgriStar Frozen Foods, Inc., filed a 12-count complaint against, among others, Eckert and Platinum Frozen Foods, Inc., of which Eckert was the sole officer, director, and shareholder. Steiner and Eckert entered into a settlement agreement, dated June 29, 2010, and an addendum thereto, dated August 10, 2010, under which Eckert agreed to pay Steiner a certain amount of money in exchange for dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. The settlement agreement further provided that plaintiffs' claims would be dismissed with leave to reinstate should Eckert default under the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement also stated that, if Eckert satisfied his monetary obligation under its terms, then all claims would be dismissed with prejudice. In the event of Eckert's default, Steiner retained the right under the settlement agreement to obtain a judgment against Eckert for $1 million minus any amounts received under the settlement agreement.
¶ 4 On September 3, 2010, the trial court entered an agreed order that stated that the "parties have entered a [s]ettlement [a]greement resolving the claims of this litigation." The September 3 order also provided that, by "agreement of the parties, and pursuant to the [s]ettlement [a]greement, " the complaint was dismissed without prejudice to plaintiffs' right to reinstate if Eckert defaulted under the settlement agreement. The order further stated that, upon satisfaction of the monetary obligation under the settlement agreement, the complaint would be dismissed with prejudice. Also, a counterclaim, filed by Platinum Frozen Foods, Inc., was dismissed, and the trial court retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement. The order was signed by counsel for plaintiffs and by attorney Douglas Drenk for Eckert and Platinum Frozen Foods, Inc. A handwritten notation, next to Drenk's signature, stated "per clients [sic] express approval 9-2-2010."
¶ 5 On February 8, 2011, Steiner and Eckert entered into a written "forbearance agreement, " requiring Steiner to forgo enforcing his rights under the settlement agreement for a period of eight months. In consideration of such forbearance, Steiner would "cause to be executed" a judgment in the amount of $1 million in favor of himself and against Eckert. The forbearance agreement further provided that, during the eight-month period, execution of the judgment would be stayed and not "entered on the docket." Finally, the forbearance agreement stated that, if Eckert were in default under the settlement agreement at the end of the eight-month period, Steiner could "have the [j]udgment entered on the docket, record the [j]udgment and execute upon the [j]udgment, " as well as exercise any other rights and remedies under the settlement agreement.
¶ 6 On December 11, 2011, Steiner filed a combined, amended motion to enforce the settlement agreement and for entry of judgment (amended motion). The amended motion referred to the settlement agreement, the forbearance agreement, and the September 3, 2010, agreed order. The amended motion asserted that, as of its date, Eckert had not paid any money toward satisfaction of the amount owed under the settlement agreement. The amended motion thus asserted that Eckert was in default under the settlement agreement and the forbearance agreement and that entry of judgment in ...