United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendants' motion to enforce a Rule
68 Offer of Judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 68. ECF No. 64. Plaintiff
Lynwood Poindexter (“Poindexter”) also moves to
enforce the Offer of Judgment, but under an interpretation
that affords him leave to file separately for attorneys'
fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. ECF No. 65. The Court
now rules because no hearing is necessary. See D.
Md. Loc. R. 105.6. Upon consideration of the parties'
briefing and the evidence in the record, the Court GRANTS
Defendants' motion and DENIES Plaintiff's motion.
lawsuit arises from Poindexter's arrest on August 15,
2014. ECF No. 1 ¶12. In his Complaint, Poindexter
alleged that Prince George's County police officers
approached him without probable cause and searched his car
without consent. Id. ¶¶ 14-16. Despite
failing to recover contraband from his person or vehicle,
Poindexter was detained for the next five days, and
subsequently charged with possessing controlled substances
and firearms. Id. ¶¶ 22-29. The firearms
charges were dropped two weeks later, and the drug charges
were dropped at trial on January 29, 2015. Id.
30-33. Poindexter thereafter initiated this action, asserting
state common law claims, state statutory claims, and
constitutional claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against Prince George's County and the individual
police officers. Id. ¶¶ 37-78.
(collectively, “the County”) moved for partial
dismissal, or in the alternative for summary judgment,
arguing that Poindexter's failure to comply with the
notice provisions set forth in the Local Government Tort
Claims Act, Md. Cod Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-304,
barred suit. ECF No. 8. The Court granted the County's
motion as to the state law claims for false arrest and
illegal search, but denied the motion as to Poindexter's
other claims. ECF No. 32.
close of discovery, the parties engaged in settlement
discussions. ECF No. 57 ¶ 1. Thereafter, on October 3,
2018, the County extended an Offer of Judgment (the
“Offer”) to Poindexter which reads:
Pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
defendants hereby submit a written offer of judgment on
behalf of Officer Dashaun Randall and Officer Cedric
Babineaux, to allow judgment to be taken against them in the
sum of Fifty Thousand dollars ($50, 000.00), inclusive of
attorney's fees accrued to date, subject to the following
. . . .
ECF No. 64-1 at 2.
Offer of Judgment further detailed particular undertakings of
both sides in connection with the Offer. Id.
Plaintiff particularly agreed “upon acceptance and
payment” to “file an order of satisfaction,
execute a release and settlement agreement, execute a
dismissal with prejudice in favor of all beneficiaries of
this offer of judgment, and otherwise to formalize
Plaintiff's release and discharge of all claims by
Plaintiff against all beneficiaries of this offer of
judgment.” Id. at 2-3. Notably absent in the
list of contemplated filings is a separate petition for
October 5, 2018, Poindexter accepted and signed the Offer.
ECF No. 64-2 at 2. Two weeks later, Poindexter filed a joint
post-mediation status report on behalf of both parties. ECF
No. 57. The status report informed the Court of the Offer,
that the Plaintiff had accepted the Offer, and that
“[t]he Offer of Judgment acknowledges Plaintiff's
entitlement to attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and the corollary 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Accordingly, a motion requesting said fees will be filed for
consideration by the Court.” ECF No. 57 ¶ 5.
next day, the County submitted a line “to correct
paragraph 5 of the Joint Status Report . . . because
Defendants' Offer of Judgment specified that the amount
offered was inclusive (not exclusive) of attorneys' fees
accrued up to the date the Offer was extended.” ECF No.
58. Plaintiff objected, contending that, at best, the
attorneys' fees provision in the Offer was ambiguous and
should be construed in Plaintiff's favor, thus allowing
Plaintiff to file a separate petition for attorneys'
fees. ECF No. 59. The Court then held a status conference and
directed the parties to submit supplemental pleadings on the
scope and enforcement of the Rule 68 Offer of Judgment. ECF
Nos. 62, 63.
Court begins with noting that in a § 1983 action, the
Court may award “a reasonable attorney's fee as
part of the costs” to the prevailing party in the
action. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). A “prevailing
party” is “one who has been awarded some relief
by the court” on the underlying claims. Buckhannon
Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Virginia Dep't of Health
& Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 603 (2001). Practically,
the prevailing party must submit to the Court a petition for
such fees, detailing the work performed so that the Court may
assess the petition for reasonableness and order fees to be
paid by the non-prevailing party, if warranted. McAfee v.
Boczar, 738 F.3d 81, 88 (4th Cir. 2013).
the litigation, but at least 14 days in advance of trial, a
defendant may submit an offer of judgment pursuant to Rule 68
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 68(a) (“a party defending against a claim may
serve on an opposing party an offer to allow judgment on
specified terms, with the costs then accrued.”). If the
plaintiff accepts the offer in writing within 14 days after
being served, “either party may then file the offer and
notice of acceptance, ” and “[t]he clerk must
then enter judgment.” Id. If the plaintiff
rejects the offer, however, and then obtains a judgment less
favorable than the rejected offer, the plaintiff must bear
the costs incurred after the offer was made. See Fed
R. Civ. P. 68(d). Accordingly, “[t]he plain purpose of
Rule 68 is to encourage settlement and avoid
litigation.” Marek v. Chesny, 473 U.S. 1, 5
(1985) (internal ...