United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Amarillo Division
CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND GRANT
DEFENDANT'S OBJECTION TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND CROSS-MOTION TO ENFORCE
ANN RENO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce Settlement
Agreement [ECF 37] and Defendant's Objection to
Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement and
Cross-Motion to Enforce Settlement [ECF 39]. Because the
Court finds the settlement agreement releases the Asarco
Health Plan from liability for future medical expenses
related to the incident in question, the undersigned
recommends that Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce
Settlement Agreement [ECF 37] be DENIED and
Defendant's Objection to Plaintiff's Motion to
Enforce Settlement Agreement and Cross-Motion to Enforce
Settlement [ECF 39] be GRANTED.
Eddie Pikulin (“Pikulin”) suffered a work-related
injury (the “incident”) and filed this negligence
suit against ASARCO, LLC (“Asarco”), his former
employer. The Plan 504 Asarco Health Plan (“the
Plan”) paid “nearly all of the medical expenses
[Pikulin] incurred for his shoulder treatments” as a
result of the incident. [ECF 39 at 2; 39-1 at 5]. The Plan is
an employer-sponsored ERISA plan. [ECF 39-1 at 5; 41 at 3].
Since the incident, Pikulin retired and receives health
insurance benefits under the Plan as a retired Asarco
employee. [ECF 40 at 2; 41 at 3]. The parties attended
mediation on November 5, 2018 but did not reach an agreement.
[ECF 38 at 3].
the mediator sent both parties a settlement proposal stating:
The mediator proposes that this case settle for the sum of
[confidential settlement amount], new money, meaning that
ASARCO Health Plan will waive its claim of subrogation.
Please acknowledge your acceptance or rejection below and
return this Mediator's Settlement Proposal to me by 4
p.m. on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. If both parties agree, the
case will settle. If any party disagrees, the case will not
settle. The decision by each party will remain confidential.
You may email this form to ****@********lawfirm.com
or fax it to (806) ***-****.
[ECF 38 at 3, 6, 8]. Both parties agreed by providing the
mediator a signed copy of the proposal. [ECF 38 at 3-8]. A
notice of settlement was filed on November 7, 2018 [ECF 35],
and the case was administratively closed. [ECF 36]. The
parties exchanged drafts and edits to the final settlement
agreement but reached an impasse regarding whether the
settlement agreement releases the Plan from liability for
future medical expenses related to the incident. [ECF 37 at
2; 39 at 3- 4]. Both parties filed motions to enforce the
settlement agreement. [ECF 37; 39]. The issue before the
Court is whether the settlement agreement releases the Plan
from liability for future medical expenses related to the
‘[A]lthough federal courts possess the inherent power
to enforce agreements entered into in settlement of
litigation, the construction and enforcement of settlement
agreements is governed by the principles of state law
applicable to contracts generally.' ” Lockette
v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 817 F.2d 1182, 1185 (5th Cir.
1987) (quoting Lee v. Hunt, 631 F.2d 1171, 1173-74
(5th Cir. Unit A Dec. 1980)); Borden v. Banacom Mfg.
& Mktg., Inc., 698 F.Supp. 121, 123 (N.D. Tex.
1988); see KeyCorp v. Holland, No. 3:16-CV-1948-D,
2017 WL 3242294, at *2 (N.D. Tex. July 28, 2017). Because
Texas law controls this case, Texas Rule of Civil Procedure
11 (“Rule 11”) also applies. See Anderegg v.
High Standard, Inc., 825 F.2d 77, 80 (5th Cir. 1987);
Condit Chem. & Grain Co. v. Helena Chem. Corp.,
789 F.2d 1101, 1102-03 (5th Cir. 1986). Rule 11 provides that
“no agreement between attorneys or parties touching any
suit pending will be enforced unless it be in writing, signed
and filed with the papers as part of the record, or unless it
be made in open court and entered of record.”
construing a written contract, [the] primary objective is to
ascertain the parties' true intentions as expressed in
the language they chose.” Plains Exploration &
Prod. Co. v. Torch Energy Advisors Inc., 473 S.W.3d 296,
305 (Tex. 2015). “If a contract ‘is so worded
that it can be given a certain or definite legal meaning or
interpretation, then it is not ambiguous and the court will
construe it as a matter of law.' ” Roberts v.
Overby-Seawell Co., 2018 WL 1457306, at *7 (N.D. Tex.
Mar. 23, 2018) (quoting Coker v. Coker, 650 S.W.2d
391, 393 (Tex. 1983)). “Courts interpreting unambiguous
contracts are confined to the four corners of the document,
and cannot look to extrinsic evidence to create an
ambiguity.” Id. (quoting Texas v. American
Tobacco Co., 463 F.3d 399, 407 (5th Cir. 2006)).
“A contract is not ambiguous simply because the parties
advance different interpretations.” Id.
(citing American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Schaefer,
124 S.W.3d 154, 157 (Tex. 2003)).
Compliance with Rule 11
Court first considers whether the alleged settlement
agreement is in writing, signed, and filed with the papers as
part of the record, such that Rule 11's requirements are
met. The Texas Supreme Court has held that a series of
letters can satisfy Rule 11. See Padilla v.
LaFrance, 907 S.W.2d 454, 460 (Tex. 1995). Additionally,
district courts in the Northern District of Texas have made
an Erie determination that a series of electronically signed
emails can satisfy the “in writing” requirement.
See KeyCorp, No. 3:16-CV-1948-D, 2017 WL 3242294, at
*2-3 (citing Williamson v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 947
F.Supp.2d 704, 708 (N.D. Tex. 2013)).
mediator sent the settlement proposal to both parties on
November 5, 2018. [ECF 38 at 3]. Pikulin agreed to the
proposal on the same day by sending the mediator a signed
copy of the proposal. [ECF 38 at 3, 6]. Asarco requested and
received additional time to respond, later accepting the
proposal by email with a signed copy of the proposal
attached. [ECF 38 at 3-5, 7- 8]. The mediator forwarded the
Asarco email to Pikulin's attorney because it
“contained statements…relevant to the
settlement.” Id. Pikulin's signed copy of
the mediator's proposal and Asarco's email and
attached signed copy of the mediator's proposal form the
settlement agreement. [ECF 38 at 3-8]. Because both copies of
the mediator's proposal were signed, the Court concludes
the “in writing” and “signed”
requirements of Rule 11 are satisfied. Rule 11 also requires
the settlement agreement be filed with the papers as part of
the record. Padilla, 907 ...