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Wilson v. Pride

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

August 29, 2019

KILEY WILSON, ET AL., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
SPENCER PRIDE, ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas No. CV-17-883441


          Fred D. Middleton, for appellants.

          Ciano & Goldwasser, L.L.P., Andrew S. Goldwasser, and Sarah E. Katz; Law Office of John J. O'Shea, P.L.C., and John J. O'Shea, for appellees.


          LARRY A JONES, SR., J.

         {¶ 1} This case stems from an automobile accident that occurred in 2013 when a Mack truck, driven by defendant-appellee Spencer Pride ("Pride"), collided with a car driven by plaintiff-appellant Kiley Wilson. Wilson sustained injuries that required surgery on both shoulders. The trial court enforced a settlement agreement between the parties and this appeal followed. Finding merit to the appeal, we reverse and remand the case to the trial court.

         Procedural History and Facts

         {¶ 2} In 2015, Wilson filed a complaint against Pride and his employer, Ferris Process of Cleveland (collectively referred to as "Pride"). Also named as plaintiffs in the complaint were two minors who were riding in Wilson's vehicle at the time of the accident and Wilson's wife, Quavae Wilson ("Quavae" and the plaintiffs are at times collectively referred to as "Wilson"). Wilson dismissed his complaint but refiled it in 2017 against the same parties. In his complaint, Wilson alleged: (1) Pride was at fault for the accident; (2) Pride's employer was responsible for Pride's negligence; (3) Wilson incurred over $14, 000 in medical expenses and would continue to incur expenses; (4) each minor incurred $1, 162 in medical expenses; (5) Wilson incurred property damage in the amount of $5, 35542 and car rental expenses totaling $1, 057.84; and (6) a loss of consortium claim on behalf of Quavae.[1]

         {¶ 3} Trial for the case was set for Monday, September 10, 2018. Attorneys for the parties engaged in settlement negotiations by phone the Thursday and Friday prior to trial, September 6 and 7. Appellee's attorney claimed that the parties did, in fact, reach a settlement agreement on September 7, agreeing to settle the case for $25, 000. Approximately 20 minutes after the parties allegedly agreed on a $25, 000 settlement, appellee's attorney sent an email to the court, copying appellant's attorney, to inform the court that the parties had reached a settlement. Upon receipt of the email, appellant's attorney phoned the court, informing the court that the parties had not reached a settlement.

         {¶ 4} Wilson subsequently filed a motion to vacate the settlement. Pride responded with a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement was never reduced to writing.

         {¶ 5} In his motion to vacate the settlement agreement, Wilson stated that his attorney never agreed to the $25, 000 offer because there had not been a "complete agreement as to the settlement for the children because [appellant's] counsel never had any discussion with the parents of the minor children regarding the settlement or authority to settle their case." In the motion to enforce, Pride argued that a settlement agreement had been reached and Wilson should be bound by their oral agreement.

         {¶ 6} On September 10, the court issued a journal entry stating that the parties had reached a settlement and ordered the parties to file a dismissal entry within 30 days of the entry. The court also scheduled a hearing on the parties' competing motions for the next day, September 11.

         {¶ 7} The matter proceeded to a hearing on September 11. Appellee's attorney, Wilson, and the father of the two minor plaintiffs testified under oath and were subject to cross-examination.

         {¶ 8} The following evidence was adduced at the hearing.

         {¶ 9} Appellee's attorney testified that he contacted appellant's attorney on September 6, 2018, and extended a settlement offer for $25, 000. Appellant's attorney countered with a demand for $75, 000 to settle all claims.

         {¶ 10} Later that day, appellee's attorney again phoned appellant's attorney and told the attorney that he (appellee's attorney) had spoken with the court's staff attorney and discovered that the court ruled on several pretrial motions in Pride's favor. Appellee's attorney requested that counsel for the appellant take the settlement offer back to his client, stating that the offer might "no longer be on the table" if appellee had to incur the cost of trial preparation.

         {¶ 11} Specifically, appellee's attorney testified that he called appellant's counsel on the morning of September 7 and

informed him that the $25, 000 settlement offer was still on the table and we would appreciate it if he would get back to us as soon as possible because we were in preparation for trial and due to the costs that the company was going to incur over the weekend, I would not -could not guarantee that that money would still be available on [the day of trial].

         {¶ 12} Appellee's attorney testified that appellant's attorney called him two hours later, around 12:30 p.m., and agreed to the $25, 000 settlement offer. According to appellee's attorney, appellant's attorney proposed that the settlement funds be apportioned as follows: $21, 000 to Wilson and $2, 000 to each minor child. Appellant's counsel then asked counsel for appellee about the Medicaid lien -Wilson's injuries totaled over $40, 000 in medical bills, approximately $15, 000 of which Medicaid paid the Cleveland Clinic. Appellee's attorney testified:

I informed him [appellant's attorney] that I would need to check with the company regarding how they wanted to handle the Medicaid lien, because Medicaid paid certain medical bills and that I would call him back regarding the Medicaid lien after I spoke to [co-counsel] about how the company wanted to handle that particular matter, and I also told him that I would confirm in writing the settlement.[2]

         {¶ 13} Appellee's counsel admitted appellant's attorney asked for a return call regarding the Medicaid issue, but did not think it warranted further discussion with regard to the proposed settlement: "I considered it to be how the company wanted to treat the Medicaid payment on the settlement check."

         {¶ 14} On cross-examination, appellee's attorney insisted that although appellant's attorney had asked for a return call to discuss the Medicaid payment and he had not made the return call, any discussion of the Medicaid payments was not "a ...

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