United States District Court, D. Maryland
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Mark Coulson, United States Magistrate Judge.
Russell Sutton, Elizabeth Carollo, and Michael Johnson
originally brought suit against Defendants Federal Debt
Assistance Association, LLC (“FDAA”), Vincent
Piccione, David Piccione, and Robert Pantoulis,
(collectively, “Defendants”), for breach of
contract and alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards
Act (“FLSA”) and Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law (“MWPCL”). This case was referred
to me for all proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636 and
Local Rules 301 and 302 by Judge Richard D. Bennett. (ECF No.
28). Plaintiff Sutton and Defendant FDAA are the only parties
that have filed their respective consents to my jurisdiction.
(ECF Nos. 32 & 50). However, Defendants Vincent Piccione,
David Piccione, and Robert Pantoulis have not filed their
consents, and are now subject to a pending dispositive
motion. (ECF No. 62). Accordingly, Judge Bennett has asked
that I address the disposition of that Motion in the form of
a Report and Recommendation.
pending before this Court is Plaintiff Sutton's Motion to
Enforce Settlement Agreement. (ECF No. 62). Defendants have
not filed any response, and the deadline has now passed.
See Loc. R. 105.2(a) (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
that follow, I respectfully recommend that the Court GRANT
Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement.
January 16, 2018, a settlement conference was held in this
case before Judge Beth P. Gesner. Plaintiff Sutton and
Defendant David Piccione, on behalf of himself and FDAA,
attended the conference. Although Defendants Vincent Piccione
and Robert Pantoulis did not personally attend, Nathanial K.
Risch, Esq. attended on their behalf. Plaintiff and Defendants
reached and ultimately signed a settlement agreement drafted
by Judge Gesner at the conference. Part of the settlement
agreement required Defendants to pay the settlement amount of
$10, 000 into their counsel's IOLTA account within ten
days of the settlement conference. Defendants have, thus far,
failed to provide the settlement amount to their counsel for
placement in the IOLTA account. On February 20, 2018, the
Court entered an Order scheduling a second settlement
conference and requiring that Defendants attend. (ECF No.
51). The second settlement conference was held on February
26, 2018. At the conference, Defendants claimed that they did
not have the requisite funds to pay the settlement amount to
which the parties had agreed.
parties to litigation pending in district courts enter into
agreements to settle their disputes, the courts “have
inherent authority, derived from their equity power, to
enforce settlement agreements.” Williams v.
Prof'l Transp., Inc., 388 F.3d 127, 131-32 (4th Cir.
2004). A party to a settlement agreement may seek to enforce
the agreed-upon terms when the opposing party reneges.
Dimeglio v. Haines, Civ. No. Y-93-2656, 1999 WL
1489197, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 28, 1999). In order to enforce an
agreement, a court “(1) must find that the parties
reached a complete agreement and (2) must be able to
determine its terms and conditions.” Lopez v. XTEL
Const. Group, LLC, 796 F.Supp.2d 693, 699 (D. Md. 2011)
(quoting King v. Sallie Mae, Inc., No. PJM-08-2934,
2009 WL 2596643, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2009)). “If
there is a factual dispute over the existence of an
agreement, over the authority of attorneys to enter into the
agreement, or over the agreement's terms, the district
court may not enforce a settlement agreement
summarily.” Hensley v. Alcon Labs., Inc., 277
F.3d 535, 541-42 (4th Cir. 2002).
apply basic contract principles when considering a motion to
enforce a settlement agreement. Bradley v. Am. Household
Inc., 378 F.3d 373, 380 (4th Cir. 2004). Perhaps the
most essential element in the formation of a contract is the
“manifestation of agreement or mutual assent by the
parties to the terms thereof; in other words, to establish a
contract the minds of the parties must be in agreement as to
its terms.” Dern v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No.
GJH-15-1737, 2017 WL 2257333, at *2 (D. Md. May 22, 2017)
(internal citations omitted). Case law in this Court
demonstrates that settlement agreements are most often
enforced when the parties have physically signed an
agreement. See Simmons v. Koons Toyota Westminster,
No. Civ. JFM-03- 02914, 2005 WL 638062 (D. Md. Mar. 14,
2005); King v. Sallie Mae, Inc., No. PJM-08-2934,
2009 WL 2596643 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2009). “Notably, the
fact that a party may have second thoughts about the results
of a valid settlement agreement does not justify setting
aside an otherwise valid agreement.” Lopez v. XTEL
Const. Group, LLC, 796 F.Supp.2d 693, 699 (D. Md. 2011)
(internal citations and quotations omitted).
there is no factual dispute over the existence of a
settlement agreement. See Id. (citing
Hensley, 277 F.3d at 541.). Plaintiff provided a
copy of the settlement agreement, drafted by Judge Gesner and
signed by the parties, as an attachment to his Motion. (ECF
No. 63). Defendants filed no response and the deadline for
such response has now passed. Thus, I conclude that a
complete agreement was reached by the parties at the
settlement conference before Judge Gesner. Furthermore, the
terms of the parties' settlement agreement are readily
ascertainable. The handwritten, signed agreement clearly
states the terms of settlement:
• Settlement is contingent upon the dismissal of the
action in its entirety (including claims by Plaintiffs
Carollo and Johnson, which the Court has now dismissed);
• Defendants are to make a payment in the sum of $10,
000, including attorneys' fees and costs, to Plaintiff
• The $10, 000 sum is to be placed in escrow through
Defense Counsel within 10 days of the date of the agreement;
• Within ten days of the Court's anticipated
approval of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to
Plaintiffs Carollo and Johnson, the parties will file a
Motion to Approve the Settlement Agreement.
(ECF No. 63). Plaintiff has demonstrated that the parties
reached a complete settlement agreement with determinable
terms and conditions and Defendants have made no attempt to
contradict these showings or otherwise ...