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Williams v. Manor Care - Dulaney MD. LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 13, 2017

FAITH ELIZABETH WILLIAMS
v.
MANOR CARE - DULANEY MD. LLC

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          A. David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter was referred to me on May 16, 2017 for settlement (ECF 24). A settlement conference was held on September 7, 2017. At the settlement conference. Plaintiff was represented by appointed pro bono counsel (ECF 31). The parties reached a full settlement of all claims and the Court issued an Order dismissing the case (ECF 33) on the same date. On October 6, 2017, Plaintiff sent a letter to the Court which was properly construed as a motion to reopen the settlement agreement (ECF 34). Plaintiff filed the motion on her own behalf, having counsel appointed for settlement only. This matter, having previously been referred to me for settlement, was referred to determine whether there was a basis to reopen the settlement agreement and to provide a Report and Recommendation on two issues raised (1) whether the court should allow Plaintiff to withdraw the settlement agreement, and (2) whether to grant pro bono counsel's request, which was joined by the Plaintiff, to strike his appearance. A hearing was held on November 8, 2017 with the Plaintiff, her pro bono counsel and Defendant's counsel present. I incorporate the evidence presented at the hearing in support of this Report and Recommendation.

         Factual Basis for Plaintiffs Claim

         The Plaintiff, Ms. Faith Williams, served as a geriatric nurse aide for Manor Care -Dulaney MD, LLC. Plaintiff, an African American, alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. alleging that a group of "Africans" were allowed to refuse to help her with her patient care (ECF 1). Defendant Manor Care tiled an Answer denying any liability and challenging the legal sufficiency of the claim on multiple grounds (ECF 18). The case was referred to me for settlement and as stated above, counsel was appointed pro bono for purposes of the settlement.

         The Settlement Conference

         On September 7. 2017, I met with the parties for settlement. Initially I explained the purpose of the settlement conference and the procedures we would follow. Mr. Burkhouse, appointed counsel for Ms. Williams, had an opportunity to speak with her prior to the settlement conference and was given an opportunity to speak with her both in my presence as well as outside of my presence during the settlement conference. Mr. Burkhouse advised her of his evaluation of her complaint and the various challenges she would face in proceeding to trial, including the costs for an expert witness, the costs of conducting discovery and the challenge of responding to dispositive motions at the conclusion of discovery. There were several back and forth sessions that I conducted with each side, and my notes reflect that 1 met with each side four times before the written settlement agreement (Court's Exh. 1 under seal to the Motions 1 Hearing) was reached.

         Findings of Fact and Recommendations

         At the Motions Hearing on November 8, 2017 and after allowing both Plaintiff and her counsel to be heard, as well as Defendant's counsel who opposed Plaintiffs motion to reopen the settlement, 1 made several findings of fact that I adopt here in this Report and Recommendation.

I. At the time of settlement, a complete settlement was reached as outlined in Court's Exhibit 1.
2. Plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily executed the settlement agreement with the advice of counsel.
3. Plaintiff was fully and completely aware of the terms of the settlement and had full opportunity to accept or reject any of the terms and decided to accept them.
4. The settlement was conducted with full and fair bargaining by each side, and with each side represented by competent counsel.
5. The Plaintiff has failed to show any cause, much less good cause, to set aside a full and fair settlement, entered into in good faith and accepted by her and her counsel.
6. I find there is no basis for her allegations with respect to representation by her counsel. Her counsel fully realized the value of her claim, and provided Plaintiff with his analysis. These are issues of which Plaintiff complains and has ...

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