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Grant v. Jpmorgan Chase Bank N.A.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 21, 2017

Robert Grant, Plaintiff,
v.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce Settlement; Motion for Fees; and Motion for Hearing (Doc. 20, 21)[1]. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to enforce settlement and motion for fees, and DENIES his motion for hearing.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Robert Grant, a former employee of Defendant JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., filed this action against Defendant on October 7, 2016, alleging disability discrimination claims under federal and state law. On August 10, 2017, the parties negotiated a settlement agreement at a court-ordered settlement conference. The parties reached agreement on the amount of payment and other material terms. One of the negotiated terms was that Plaintiff agreed not to seek re-employment by Defendant, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. The parties, however, agreed that Plaintiff's “employment is protected if his employer merged with JPMC [Defendant] or its related entities.” (Def.'s Resp. at 3).

         Defendant requested that it have until August 31, 2017, to confirm its acceptance of the settlement. On August 31, 2017, Defense counsel notified Plaintiff's counsel and the Court that Defendant had accepted the settlement. Specifically, Defense counsel wrote:

Judge Gaughan:
I am pleased to report that Defendant has accepted the settlement we tentatively reached on August 10, 2017.

         Although counsel's email did not state that Defendant's acceptance was conditioned on additional terms that had not been discussed at the settlement conference, Defendant thereafter demanded that Plaintiff agree to several additional terms before it would execute the agreement. One of those terms was that Plaintiff also agree never to seek re-employment with Defendant's parent company, JPMorgan Chase and Co. or any of its subsidiaries worldwide.[2]

         On September 28, 2017, the Court held a phone call with counsel for both parties to discuss the settlement agreement, going item-by-item through a draft of the agreement.[3] During the call, Defendant's counsel agreed to remove the reference to “subsidiaries” in the re-hire clause. Plaintiff, in turn, agreed never to apply for employment with Defendant, its parent corporation, or one additional entity, J.P. Morgan Securities, LLC. After the call, the Court noted on the docket, “the Court anticipates a dismissal entry on or before 10/30/17.”

         Despite counsel's assurance that “subsidiaries” would be removed from the re-hire clause, Defendant refuses to execute the agreement unless Plaintiff agrees never to seek re-employment from Defendant's subsidiaries and its related entities. Plaintiff now moves to seek enforcement of the agreement that the parties reached on August 31, 2017. Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion.

         ANALYSIS

         “Courts retain the inherent power to enforce agreements entered into in settlement of litigation pending before them.” Brock v. Scheuner Corp., 841 F.2d 151, 154 (6th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). This is true even if the agreement has not been reduced to writing. Id. “Because settlement agreements are a type of contract, the formation and enforceability of a purported settlement agreement are governed by state contract law.” Smith v. ABN AMRO Mortg. Group, Inc., 434 Fed.Appx. 454, 460 (6th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). Here, the parties agree that Ohio law applies. Under Ohio law, “[t]he result of a valid settlement agreement is a contract between parties, requiring a meeting of the minds as well as an offer and an acceptance thereof.” Rulli v. Fan Co., 79 Ohio St.3d 374, 683 N.E.2d 337, 339 (1997) (citations omitted). Before a court may enforce a settlement agreement, it must conclude that the parties have reached an agreement on all of the material terms. RE/MAX Internat'l, Inc. v. Realty One, Inc., 271 F.3d 633, 645-56 (6th Cir. 2001). If the facts material to an agreement are in dispute, the court must ordinarily hold an evidentiary hearing. Id. No hearing is necessary, however, “where an agreement is clear and unambiguous and no issue of fact is present.” Id. Thus, summary enforcement is appropriate “where no substantial dispute exists regarding the entry into and terms of an agreement.” Id.

         The Court finds that no evidentiary hearing is necessary in this case because a clear and unambiguous agreement existed as of August 31, 2017, and there is no dispute of fact as to the essential terms of that agreement. Moreover, this Court participated in both the August 10 and September 28 ...


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