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Murra v. Farrauto

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

March 9, 2017

Grayson Murra, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Ann M. Farrauto et al., Defendants-Appellees.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 14CV-7219)

         On brief:

          Zoll & Kranz, LLC, and James G. O'Brien, for appellant.

          Carlile Patchen & Murphy LLP, Joseph M. Patchen and Matthew S. Brown, for appellees.

         Argued:

          James G. O'Brien.

          Matthew S. Brown.

          DECISION

          HORTON, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Grayson Murra ("plaintiff or "appellant"), appeals from the April 8, 2016 decision and entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granting in part and denying in part appellant's March 11, 2016 motion to enforce settlement agreement and settlement entry (hereinafter "Decision"). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 2} The following are the facts relevant to this appeal. Appellant filed a complaint against defendants-appellees, Ann M. Farrauto, John Farrauto, and Bright Star Academy LLC (collectively "defendants" or "appellees"), on July 10, 2014. Appellant claimed that he was a partner with the Farrautos in a day care business in Dublin, Ohio. (Compl. at 1.) Appellant sought a declaratory judgment determining the existence of the partnership and his rights therein, and made claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, accounting, dissociation and wind-up of the partnership. (Compl. at 5-11.) Appellees filed an answer to the complaint on August 7, 2014, wherein they asserted that appellant was an employee, not a partner, in the day care business. (Answer at 7.)

         {¶ 3} The matter was scheduled for trial on January 25, 2016. On that date, the parties appeared in court and entered on the record settlement terms that included that defendants would pay the plaintiff $35, 000 within 30 days, and an additional total of $20, 000 would be paid in equal quarterly payments over 36 months. In exchange, plaintiff would enter a full dismissal with prejudice, only saving enforcement of the monthly payment amount. This agreement would constitute a full release of all claims between these parties. (Jan. 25, 2016 Tr. at 2-4; Decision at 1-2.) On January 27, 2016, the trial court filed a Notice of Settlement instructing counsel to "prepare the appropriate entry for the Court's approval within Twenty (20) days of the time-stamped date of this Notice." (Notice of Settlement at 1.)

         {¶ 4} Two days after the economic terms were stated on the record, appellant's counsel offered to draft the settlement entry. (Ex. A.) However, appellant's draft included new terms, including penalties and interest on the quarterly payments, notwithstanding the fact that such terms were never discussed, and even included a new party, i.e., Hawthorn Education Holdings, LLC, which was appellant's new business name. (Ex. B.) Appellee's counsel returned a red-line version the following day. (Ex. C.) From that time on, the parties were unable to agree on the wording of the settlement agreement and entry. (Ex. D-I.)

         {¶ 5} Following a breakdown of communications, on March 11, 2016, appellant filed a motion to enforce the oral settlement agreement that was stated on the record on January 25, 2016. In the motion, appellant alleges that appellees refused to pay the settlement unless a "new agreement" with new terms was executed. Appellant did not, however, identify what new terms were allegedly at issue. On March 28, 2016, the trial court held a conference and heard arguments pertaining to appellant's March 11, 2016 motion. In the trial court's decision of April 8, 2016, the court stated:

Plaintiffs counsel argued that there was no need for a settlement agreement and the parties should only sign an agreement that contains the terms as they were read into the record. Meanwhile, Defendants' counsel advised the Court that a settlement agreement was initially drafted by Plaintiffs counsel, which agreement contained terms not included in those that were read into the record * * * . Defense counsel further informed the Court that, although Plaintiffs counsel indicated his client would not sign the revised agreement, counsel had not, to date, identified which terms or provisions of the revised agreement he found objectionable. * * * The Court advised counsel that they had seven days from ...

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