United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Marquell Anderson, an Illinois prisoner, brought these two
pro se suits under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. No. 18 C
4639 (Anderson II) concerns an alleged encounter
with Correctional Officer W. Parker at Cook County Jail on
January 14, 2018, Anderson II, Dkt. 1 at p. 6, while
No. 18 C 5915 (Anderson III) concerns an alleged
encounter with Correctional Officer Monroy at Cook County
Jail on December 20, 2017, Anderson III, Dkt. 1 at
p. 4. In an earlier suit, No. 18 C 128 (N.D. Ill.), Anderson
brought claims regarding a different encounter with Officer
Parker. Anderson v. Parker, No. 18 C 128 (N.D. Ill.)
(Anderson I). Anderson I settled in June
2018. Id., Dkt. 27.
move under Civil Rule 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings in
Anderson II and Anderson III on the ground
that Anderson released the claims brought in those two cases
in the settlement agreement reached in Anderson I.
Anderson II, Dkt. 30; Anderson III, Dkt.
30. The court was provided an in camera copy of the
written settlement agreement due to its confidentiality, and
Anderson does not challenge its use on a Rule 12(c) motion.
See ADM All. Nutrition, Inc. v. SGA Pharm Lab, Inc.,
877 F.3d 742, 745-46 (7th Cir. 2017) (holding that Rule 12(c)
is the appropriate vehicle for a motion asserting that a
prior settlement agreement releases the plaintiff’s
claims). Defendants’ motions are granted.
Anderson I alleged that Parker used excessive force
against Anderson on October 8, 2017. Anderson I,
Dkt. 1 at p. 4. The parties reached a settlement months after
suit was filed. Id., Dkt. 27. On June 28, 2018,
Anderson signed the written settlement agreement, which, as
noted, was submitted in camera to the court.
Paragraph 7 of the Agreement states:
Plaintiff for himself, his heirs and personal
representatives, fully and forever releases, acquits and
discharge[s] Defendant and any former Defendants, their
agents, employees and former employees, either in official or
individual capacities, from any and all actions, suits,
debts, sums of money, accounts and all claims and demands of
whatever nature, in law or in equity, including but not
limited to any and all claims for Constitutional, federal law
or state law violations against Plaintiff, and/or any taken,
damaged, disposed of, or destroyed property, and any costs
accrued arising out of Plaintiff’s allegations which
are the subject of Anderson v. W. Parker, 18 C 128,
in the United States District Court for the Northern District
of Illinois, Eastern Division, or any claim or suit which her
[sic], her [sic] heirs, assigns and legal representatives,
may heretofore or hereafter have had by reason of said
allegations, including but not limited to any and all claims
for Constitutional violations, federal or state law claims,
injunctive relief claims, and/or any taken, damaged, disposed
of, or destroyed property claims, as well as any other
such claims against Cook County, the Cook County Sheriff, or
any current or former employees or agents thereof, that may
have been brought in connection with any incidents that
occurred while Plaintiff was housed in the Cook County Jail
at any point prior to the execution date of this Agreement by
all of the parties. THIS IS A GENERAL RELEASE. (Emphasis
28, 2018, Anderson mailed the Anderson II complaint
to the court. Anderson II, Dkt. 1-1 (reflecting a
6/28/2018 postmark). The alleged constitutional violation in
Anderson II occurred on January 14, 2018,
id., Dkt. 1 at p. 4., several months before Anderson
signed the Agreement in Anderson I. In August 2018,
Anderson mailed the Anderson III complaint to the
court. Anderson III, Dkt. 1 at pp. 1, 9. The alleged
constitutional violation in Anderson III occurred on
December 20, 2017, id. at p. 4, also several months
before Anderson signed the Agreement in Anderson I.
In both cases, Defendants stated as an affirmative defense
that “Plaintiff’s claim is barred by the
Settlement Agreement in [Anderson I].”
Anderson II, Dkt. 29 at p. 3; Anderson III,
Dkt. 29 at p. 3.
seek judgment on the ground that the general release in the
Anderson I settlement bars Anderson’s claims
in Anderson II and Anderson III. Illinois
law governs the interpretation of contracts executed in
Illinois. See Cannon v. Burge, 752 F.3d 1079, 1088
(7th Cir. 2014). “Illinois courts consider a release to
be a contract in which a party relinquishes a claim to a
person against whom the claim exists.” Capocy v.
Kirtadze, 183 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Under Illinois law, “[w]here
a written agreement is clear and explicit, a court must
enforce the agreement as written.” Cannon 752
F.3d at 1088. (quotation marks omitted) (collecting cases).
7 of the Agreement in Anderson I, which sets forth a
“GENERAL RELEASE, ” is unambiguous. It releases,
among other things, any claims by Anderson “against
Cook County, the Cook County Sheriff, or any current or
former employees or agents thereof, that may have been
brought in connection with any incidents that occurred while
Plaintiff was housed in the Cook County Jail at any point
prior to the execution date of this Agreement by all of the
parties.” Anderson executed the Agreement on June 28,
2018. Even if that date is deemed to be “the execution
date of this Agreement by all of the parties”-as
opposed to July 25, 2018, when defense counsel four weeks
later executed the Agreement-the release covers the claims in
Anderson II and Anderson III, which are
brought against employees of the Cook County Sheriff (or, if
not the Sheriff, Cook County itself) and concern conduct that
occurred before June 28, 2018 in Cook County Jail. It follows
that, by entering into the Agreement in Anderson I,
Anderson released the claims asserted in Anderson II
and Anderson III. See Darvosh v. Lewis, 66
F.Supp.3d 1130 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (reaching the same result in
materially identical circumstances); Daniels v.
Rivers, 2014 WL 6910492 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 9, 2014) (St.
Eve, J.) (same); see generally Fair v. Int’l
Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., 905 F.2d 1114, 1116 (7th
Cir. 1990) (“It is well established a general release
is valid as to all claims of which a signing party has actual
knowledge or that he could have discovered upon reasonable
inquiry.”) (quotation marks omitted).
argues that he should not be held to the Agreement’s
release provision because he did not understand that it would
apply to any claims arising from conduct predating his
execution of the Agreement. Anderson II, Dkt. 34 at
1. That argument fails, as a “unilateral mistake about
the effect of an unambiguous release [is] not a sufficient
ground to set aside the release.” Cannon, 752
F.3d at 1092 (citing Rakowski v. Lucente, 472 N.E.2d
791, 794 (Ill. 1984)); see also Badette v.
Rodriguez, 22 N.E.3d 1210, 1215 ( Ill. App. 2014)
(“A self-induced or unilateral mistake is not a valid
reason to set aside an unambiguous release.”).
motions for judgment on the pleadings are granted. Final
judgment will be ...