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Smego v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

October 23, 2017

RICHARD MICHAEL SMEGO, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TOM SCHANZLE-HASKINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Richard M. Smego filed this action complaining of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs concerning dental care while a resident of the Department of Human Services detention facility located in Rushville, Illinois. Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. contracts with the Department of Human Services to provide dental care to the residents of the DHS detention facility. The individual Defendants are employed in various capacities at the DHS facility.

         FACTS

         On June 20, 2017, the Court conducted a settlement conference. Participating in the settlement conference were the Plaintiff Richard Smego and defense counsel, Douglass Bitner, Kyle Rockershousen, and Theresa Powell. The parties reached a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement was stated by the Court and all parties orally agreed to the terms of the stated settlement agreement.

         On July 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Reopen Settlement Conference (d/e 44) (Motion). Plaintiff's essential complaint was that the Defendants' tendered settlement agreements to him did not conform with the agreed settlement reached by the parties on June 20, 2017. Defendants filed no responses to Plaintiff's Motion.

         Upon reviewing the Motion, the Court ordered the Plaintiff to produce all settlement agreements referred to in his Motion to the Court for in camera review. (8/15/2017 Text Order) Plaintiff forwarded the documents to the Court as ordered and the undersigned reviewed the settlement documents tendered to the Court.

         After reviewing the documents, the Court ordered a telephonic settlement conference among the parties on October 13, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. The settlement conference took place. Participating in the conference were Plaintiff Richard Smego and defense attorneys Joseph Rupcich, Kyle Rockershousen, and Theresa Powell, representing their respective Defendants.

         COURT'S RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REOPEN AND ORDER REGARDING ENFORCEMENT OF SETTLEMENT

         This Court “possesses the inherent or equitable power summarily to enforce an agreement to settle a case pending before it.” Wilson v. Wilson, 46 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 1995). See also Brewer v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 165 Ill.2d 100, 105, 649 N.E.2d 1331, 1333 (Ill. 1995) (Under Illinois law, a court has authority to enforce a settlement agreement in a case pending before it.). This case is currently pending before this Court: judgment has not been entered; the case has not been dismissed. This Court has jurisdiction over this matter.

         Settlement agreements are contracts. Courts apply ordinary contract construction principles to determine the enforceability and construction of the settlement agreement. See United States v. Rand Motors, 305 F.3d 770, 774 (7th Cir. 2002); Allstate Financial Corp., 936 F.Supp. at 527. Illinois law controls since the agreement was made in Illinois. See Dillard v. Starcon Intern., Inc., 483 F.3d 502, 506-07 (7th Cir. 2007) (state law controls enforcement of settlement agreements, even if the underlying claims are based on federal law).

         Under Illinois law, oral settlement agreements announced by the parties in open court are enforceable as long as there has been an offer and acceptance and a meeting of the minds as to the material terms of the agreement. Dillard, 483 F.3d at 507; Wilson v. Wilson, 46 F.3d 660, 666-67 (7th Cir. 1995). “Whether a ‘meeting of the minds' occur[s] depends on the parties' objective conduct, not their subjective beliefs.” Dillard, 483 F.3d at 507. The terms of the settlement agreement need not be recorded as long as they were agreed to before the Court. See Rose v. Mavrakis, 343 Ill.App.3d 1086, 1096-97, 799 N.E.2d 469, 478 ( Ill. App. 1st Dist. 2003) (oral settlement agreement reached in settlement conference conducted by the court is enforceable).

         Such oral settlement agreements are enforceable as long as their terms are sufficiently definite. “Under Illinois law, ‘[a] contract is sufficiently definite and certain to be enforceable if the court is enabled from the terms and provisions thereof, under proper rules of construction and applicable principles of equity, to ascertain what the parties have agreed to do.'” Wilson, 46 F.3d at 667 (quoting Academy Chicago Publishers v. Cheever, 144 Ill.2d 24, 161 Ill.Dec. 335, 337, 578 N.E.2d 981, 983 (1991)). Such agreements are enforceable even if the parties did not spell out nonessential details. Rose, 799 N.E.2d at 474.

         In this case, the parties entered into an enforceable settlement agreement on June 20, 2017 in open court. The objective conduct of the parties demonstrated that there was a meeting of the minds. Plaintiff and counsel for all Defendants appeared in person and agreed to the material terms of the settlement before this Court.

         The parties agreed that the terms of the settlement would be confidential. The Court made an audio recording of the terms of the settlement and each of the parties agreed that the terms stated by the Court were the terms of “our settlement”. During the October 13, 2017, conference call, the Court reviewed the specific terms of the settlement with Plaintiff and the attorneys for the respective Defendants. Based upon the legal principles set forth above, the Court ...


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