United States District Court, D. Nevada
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (DOCKET NO. 15)
J. KOPPE, United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Defendants' motion to enforce
settlement. Docket No. 15. Plaintiff filed a response in
opposition, and Defendants filed a reply. Docket Nos. 18, 20.
The Court held an evidentiary hearing on June 13, 2017.
Docket No. 25. As ordered at that hearing, Defendants also
filed under seal medical records. Docket No. 28. For the
reasons discussed below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the
motion to enforce settlement be granted and that this case be
courts have inherent authority to enforce settlement
agreements in pending cases. See, e.g., in re City
Equities Anaheim, Ltd., 22 F.3d 954, 958 (9th Cir.
1994). Even when the case involves a federal cause of action,
the construction and enforcement of settlement agreements are
governed by state law. Jones v. McDaniel, 717 F.3d
1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2013). Nevada law requires an offer and
acceptance, meeting of the minds, and consideration to
constitute an enforceable contract. May v. Anderson,
121 Nev. 668, 672 (2005). When there are disputed issues of
fact, the Court is required to hold an evidentiary hearing.
Callie v. Near, 829 F.2d 888, 890 (9th Cir. 1987).
pending motion presents a straightforward factual dispute.
Plaintiff sent a demand letter to Defendants' counsel
offering to settle this case in exchange for dismissal of the
notice of charges in this case and $1, 000. Def. Ex. A
(“Offer Letter”). That letter is dated November
22, 2016, postmarked November 28, 2016, and has a received
stamp from the Attorney General's Office of November 30,
2016. Id. Defendants responded through their counsel
with their own letter accepting the settlement. Def. Ex. B
(“Acceptance Letter”). That letter is dated
December 13, 2016. Neither party disputes the existence or
authenticity of either of these letters.
dispute before the Court turns primarily on whether Plaintiff
amended his settlement offer by sending an additional letter
prior to Defendants' acceptance. In particular, Plaintiff
contends that he amended the terms of the settlement offer as
presented in the Offer Letter by sending another letter on
November 24, 2016. See Pla. Ex. 2 (“Amendment
Letter”). Defendants argue the Amendment Letter was
drafted after-the-fact and was never mailed. Based on the
testimony and documentary evidence presented, the undersigned
concludes that Defendant did not in fact modify the terms of
his initial settlement offer as stated in the Offer Letter by
mailing the Acceptance Letter or otherwise, and that there
was an offer and acceptance, and meeting of the minds, with
respect to the initial settlement offer made.
are several considerations that support this finding. First,
the evidence shows that the Offer Letter was not mailed until
November 28, 2016, despite being dated November 22, 2016. In
particular, the Offer Letter is postmarked November 28, 2016,
which corresponds to the brass slip for legal postage
submitted by Plaintiff on that same date. See Def.
Ex. A at 2; Def. Ex. G; see also Hearing Rec. (June
13, 2017) at 10:32 - 10:41 a.m. As such, Plaintiff's timeline
of events does not make sense; he represents that he amended
his settlement offer through the Amendment Letter on November
24, 2016, which predates his actual mailing of the Offer
Letter to Defendants' counsel on November 28, 2016.
upon receiving Defendants' Acceptance Letter, Plaintiff
did not indicate that it was invalid because he had amended
the terms of the settlement prior to acceptance. Instead, he
provided other reasons at that time for why an enforceable
settlement agreement had not been reached. See Def.
Ex. D (letter postmarked December 20, 2016, indicating that
the initial “offer is no longer on the table because
I'm no longer in desperate need of money”); Def.
Ex. F (letter postmarked January 5, 2017, indicating:
“We only engaged in settlement negotiations. . . . We
never reached any settlement agreement. I never signed
anything and you never signed anything”). Had Plaintiff
amended the terms of the settlement offer through the
Amendment Letter prior to Defendants' acceptance, one
would expect that he would have made that known at the time
of these exchanges.
Plaintiff contends that the Amendment Letter was sent on
November 24, 2016, but it was dated
“11/24/17.” Pla. Ex. 2 (emphasis added).
While Plaintiff contends that the wrong year is merely a
byproduct of a learning disability, see, e.g.,
Hearing Rec. (June 13, 2017) at 11:02 - 11:03 a.m.,
mistaken year designation seems more likely to be a byproduct
of the letter actually being written after-the-fact in 2017
and a failure to pre-date the letter to 2016. Although this
incorrect date standing alone would not carry the day for
Defendants, it does add further support to the other evidence
in the record that the Amendment Letter was not drafted or
sent in November 2016.
together, the evidence establishes that Plaintiff did not
amend the terms of the settlement offer by sending the
Amendment Letter as he alleges in responding to the pending
motion. The parties reached a settlement agreement when
Plaintiff sent Defendants the Offer Letter and Defendants
accepted the terms of settlement through the Acceptance
Letter. As such, there was an enforceable settlement contract
that this case be dismissed in exchange for dismissal of the
notice of charges in this case and $1, 000.
reasons discussed above, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the
motion to enforce settlement be ...