United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge
a four-day jury trial that resulted in a verdict in favor of
Defendants, Plaintiffs filed a “motion for entry of
judgment pursuant to FRCP 68 offer of judgment, ” (ECF
No. 119), seeking, for the first time, to enforce a
settlement offer that Plaintiffs contend was accepted prior
to the start of trial. Defendants have opposed that motion,
and in turn request sanctions for what they believe is a
frivolous attempt by Plaintiffs to enforce a settlement offer
that was previously rejected. The motion has been fully
briefed, (ECF Nos. 119, 121, 122, 124), and I find that no
hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
reasons that follow, both Plaintiffs' motion to enforce
the settlement offer (ECF No. 119) and Defendants'
request for sanctions (ECF No. 121) are DENIED.
December 2, 2016, Defendants served an offer of judgment on
Plaintiffs. (ECF No.119-1). That offer read, in relevant
Defendants…hereby offer to allow judgment to be taken
against them and in favor of Virginia Callahan and T.G.
(“Plaintiffs”) in the amount of $50, 000.00,
inclusive of all costs, expenses, attorneys' fees, and
any other fees accrued through the date of service hereof.
This offer of judgment is offered in full and complete
satisfaction of all claims that Plaintiffs have asserted or
could have asserted against Defendants in the above-captioned
lawsuit…this offer will remain open for fourteen (14)
days after the service of this offer upon Plaintiffs.
(ECF No. 119-1).
that offer of judgment, on December 13, 2016, Plaintiffs
wrote to Defendants. In that correspondence, Plaintiffs
stated: “[t]he offer you provided was not explicitly
contingent on both Plaintiffs accepting the offer, ”
and, as a result, Plaintiffs stated that “Virginia
Callahan hereby accepts the offer of judgment on her own
behalf. She does not accept on behalf of T.G. who will
continue to pursue her claim for personal injuries.”
(ECF No. 119-2). Ten days later, on December 23, 2016,
Defendants wrote back to Plaintiffs informing them that their
original offer was for all claims that both
Plaintiffs had asserted or could have asserted against
Defendants. (ECF No. 119-3). Defendants concluded that
Plaintiffs' December 13th response was a
rejection of Defendants' offer of judgment. (ECF No. 119-3).
their current contention that they had properly accepted an
offer of judgment on behalf of Virginia Callahan, Plaintiffs
nonetheless proceeded to trial on all claims, including those
purportedly settled on behalf of Ms. Callahan. The four-day
trial concluded in a jury verdict in favor of Defendants.
Plaintiffs are now seeking to enforce that original offer of
judgment as to Ms. Callahan's claims.
clear that Plaintiffs rejected Defendants' December
2nd offer as to all claims and parties, and
instead proposed a counter offer, which was never accepted.
Specifically, Defendants' December 2nd offer
of judgment was for “full and complete satisfaction of
all claims that Plaintiffs have asserted or could assert
against Defendants.” (ECF No. 119-1). This term was
unambiguous; it clearly stated that full and complete
satisfaction of all claims by both
Plaintiffs was required. Thus, by responding that only
Virginia Callahan accepts the offer of judgment, Plaintiffs
modified or altered the terms of the original offer, and as a
result, made a counter offer to Defendants.
cite Mould v. NJG Food Serv. Inc., No. CIV.
JKB-13-1305, 2013 WL 6331286 (D. Md. Dec. 4, 2013), a case
from this Court, as well as case law from the Ninth Circuit,
Northern District of Illinois, and North Carolina Court of
Appeals, arguing that these cases support the notion that
cherry-picking certain aspects of an offer of judgment
constitutes a binding settlement. These cases do not stand
for that proposition, nor do any of these cases refute the
well-established principle that an offeree may not
“accept” an offer of judgment while materially
altering the terms of that offer.
relates to Defendants' request for sanctions, the Court
is not convinced that the filing of this motion rises the
level of warranting sanctions. This Court “has the
inherent authority in appropriate cases to impose sanctions
against a litigant or a member of the bar who has acted in
bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, and for oppressive
reasons.” Glynn v. EDO Corp., No.
JFM-07-01660, 2010 WL 3294347, at *2 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2010).
The Court is mindful that this authority “ought to be
exercised with great caution, in circumstances such as those
involving the very temple of justice being defiled, ”
and as a result, this Court has “considerable
discretion” in deciding whether sanctions apply and in
choosing the appropriate type of sanction. Id. It
chooses not to sanction here. Plaintiffs' motion, while
not robustly supported by precedent, does not appear to have
been filed in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly or for
oppressive reasons. Accordingly, Defendants' request is
reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' motion to enforce the
offer of judgment (ECF No. 119) is DENIED, and
Defendants' request for sanctions (ECF No. 121) is