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Taylor v. Hammers

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

September 8, 2019

TOOLA O. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
JUSTIN HAMMERS, et al. Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          TOM SCHANZLE-HASKINS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This cause has been referred the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation on the Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement filed by Defendant (d/e 44). The undersigned recommends that the Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement be GRANTED on the terms set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Toola Taylor filed this action alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Justin Hammers. Plaintiff maintains that Defendant damaged Plaintiff's fan, dumped Plaintiff's coffee in the toilet, and otherwise ransacked Plaintiff's prison cell during a search, all in retaliation for a grievance Plaintiff had filed against Defendant. The claim survived summary judgment, but Judge Myerscough noted in that order that the claim should settle (d/e 38), and the case was referred to the undersigned for a settlement conference.

         On November 1, 2018, the settlement conference was held and the parties reached a settlement agreement. The Court recorded the material terms of the settlement.[1] The Court has reviewed the recording. The material terms of the settlement were that Plaintiff would dismiss this case if the Court entered an order striking Plaintiff's obligation to pay the remainder of the filing fee in this case, which at that time was $344.10. The Court stated that an order discharging Plaintiff's obligation on the filing fee balance would be entered after a signed stipulation of dismissal was filed. (11/1/18 text order.)

         Defense counsel prepared a stipulation of dismissal and sent the stipulation to Plaintiff, per the Court's direction. Plaintiff, however, refused to sign the stipulation and still refuses to sign the stipulation. Plaintiff maintains that he agreed to dismiss the case only if Defendant personally paid the filing fee balance, as Plaintiff had offered in a letter to defense counsel dated October 16, 2018. (d/e 45, p. 4.)

         ANALYSIS

         This Court has the inherent power to enforce a completed settlement agreement, provided that jurisdiction exists. Wilson v. Wilson, 46 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir. 1995). This case is currently pending before this Court; judgment has not been entered, and the case has not been dismissed. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter.

         When a settlement agreement is reached in open court the settlement agreement is seen as a final and complete resolution of the case. Herron v. City of Chicago, 618 F.Supp. 1405, 1407 (N.D. Ill. 1985). A settlement agreement is enforced as any other contract, applying state law. 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); Carr v. Runyan, 89 F.3d 327, 331 (7th Cir. 1996).

         Oral settlement agreements are enforceable under Illinois law so long as there has been a clearly defined offer, acceptance, and a meeting of the minds. Dillard, 483 F.3d at 507; Wilson, 46 F.3d at 666; Kim v. Alvey, Inc., 322 Ill.App.3d 657, 669 (2001). Whether a meeting of the minds occurred depends on the parties' objective conduct rather than their subjective beliefs. Dillard, 483 F.3d at 507. Such oral agreements are enforceable as long as their terms are sufficiently definite, even if the parties did not spell out nonessential details. Wilson, 46 F.3d at 667.

         Plaintiff asserts that his understanding of the agreement was that Defendant would personally pay the filing fee balance. Plaintiff states that he never intended to allow Defendant to avoid all personal responsibility. Plaintiff maintains that his impression was that the Court had to strike Plaintiff's obligation to pay the filing fee in order to allow the fee to be paid by Defendant.

         The recording of the terms of the settlement clearly contradict Plaintiff's assertions. Those terms were simple: Plaintiff agreed to stipulate to dismiss the case in return for the Court striking Plaintiff's obligation to pay the filing fee balance. Plaintiff agreed on the record to those terms with no mention of Defendant paying the filing fee balance. That Plaintiff made a prior written offer to dismiss this case if Defendant paid the filing fee to the Court does not change the terms of the settlement agreement reached by the parties.

         IT IS, THEREFORE, RECOMMENDED that based upon the authority cited above, the parties had a binding oral ...


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