United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
James Mitchell, Sr., Board of Trustees Chairman and Henry Sierra, Board of Trustees Secretary, on behalf of NORTHWEST INDIANA PAINTERS WELFARE FUND; et al., Plaintiffs,
EAGLE PAINTING AND MAINTENANCE COMPANY, INC. and STEVE SAKOUTIS, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on the Motion to Enforce the Court
Approved Settlement Agreement [DE 41] filed by the plaintiffs
on August 5, 2016. For the following reasons, the motion is
7, 2016, a bench trial was held on the plaintiffs' claims
against the defendants. After the plaintiffs presented
evidence and testimony, the parties advised the court a
settlement agreement had been reached. The settlement
agreement was stated for the record in open court by the
defendants' counsel and confirmed by plaintiffs'
counsel. The court indicated in [DE 37] that the parties had
reached a settlement agreement. The court set the deadline to
submit dismissal papers for August 5, 2016.
parties have indicated that the settlement agreement included
a payment from Eagle Painting and Maintenance Company, Inc.
to the plaintiffs for $65, 000.00. On June 27, 2016, the
defendants sent the plaintiffs the Mutual Release and
Settlement Agreement that proposed the payment of $65, 000.00
be made in twenty-four monthly installments. The plaintiffs
emailed defendants' counsel rejecting the proposed
release and demanded payment in lump sum. The parties agree
that an installment payment plan never was discussed and was
not presented to the court.
plaintiffs filed the parties Agreed Motion for Extension of
Time to File Dismissal Papers [DE 39] on August 5, 2016. The
court extended the deadline until August 19, 2016. The
plaintiffs filed a Motion to Enforce the Court Approved
Settlement [DE 41] on August 19, 2016. On September 2, 2016,
the defendants filed their Response in Opposition to the
Motion [DE 42], and on September 9, 2016, the plaintiffs
filed a Reply [DE 43].
district court has inherent authority to enforce a settlement
agreement reached in a case pending before it.”
Allen v. Dana, 2011 WL 3163232, at *1 (N.D. Ind.
July 26, 2011) (citing Carr v. Runyan, 89 F.3d 327,
331 (7th Cir. 1996)). A settlement agreement of federal
claims is enforceable “just like any other
contract.” See Dillard v. Starcon Int'l,
Inc., 483 F.3d 502, 506 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Lynch, Inc. v. SamataMason Inc., 279 F.3d 487, 489
(7th Cir. 2002)); see also Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 380-82, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128
L.Ed.2d 391 (1994).
state law governs whether the parties made a contract, so
Indiana law applies here. Dillard, 483 F.3d at 506.
Under Indiana law, the elements of a binding contract include
an offer, acceptance of the offer, consideration, and meeting
of the minds between the parties. See Bennett v.
Broderick, 858 N.E.2d 1044, 1048 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006). A
meeting of the minds of the contracting parties, having the
same intent, is essential to the formation of a contract.
Zimmerman v. McColley, 826 N.E.2d 71, 77
(Ind.Ct.App. 2005); Wallem v. CLS Indus., Inc., 725
N.E.2d 880, 883 (Ind.Ct.App. 2000). The intent relevant in
contract matters is not the parties' subjective intents
but their outward manifestation of it. Zimmerman,
826 N.E.2d at 77; Centennial Mortgage, Inc. v.
Blumenfeld, 745 N.E.2d 268, 277 (Ind.Ct.App. 2001).
valid and enforceable, a contract must be reasonably definite
and certain. Conwell v. Gray Loon Outdoor Mktg. Grp.,
Inc., 906 N.E.2d 805, 813 (Ind. 2009) (citing Wolvos
v. Meyer, 668 N.E.2d 671, 675-676 (Ind. 1996) (stating
that enforcement of an incomplete or ambiguous writing
creates substantial danger that the court will enforce
something neither party intended). All that is required to
render a contract enforceable is reasonable certainty in the
terms and conditions of the promises made, including by whom
and to whom; absolute certainty in all terms is not required.
Conwell, 906 N.E.2d at 813. Only essential terms
need be included to render a contract enforceable.
Conwell, 906 N.E.2d at 813.
a communication that a first party is willing to enter into a
bargain is not an offer if the second party knew or had
reason to know that the communication required further
manifestation of the first party's assent to conclude the
bargain. Janky v. Batistatos, 559 F.Supp.2d 923, 930
(N.D. Ind. 2008) (citing Zimmerman, 826 N.E.2d at
77). In determining the parties' intent at the time of
the agreement, courts consider whether the parties intended
to execute a final written document. McLinden v.
Coco, 765 N.E.2d 606, 612 (Ind.Ct.App. 2002).
Furthermore, the party seeking to enforce a contract bears
the burden of proof to establish its existence. First
Nat'l Bank of Logansport v. Logan Mfg. Co., Inc.,
577 N.E.2d 949, 953 (Ind. 1991).
same principles govern settlement agreements. Zimmerman
v. McColley, 826 N.E.2d 71, 76 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005)
(citing Georgos v. Jackson, 790 N.E.2d 448, 453
(Ind. 2003)). Indiana law strongly favors settlement
agreements and allows a party to obtain a judgment to enforce
a settlement agreement when the opposing party agrees to
settle a pending claim but then refuses to consummate the
agreement. Georgos, 790 N.E.2d at 453.
parties reached an agreement to settle the dispute at the
conclusion of the court's hearing of the evidence. The
defendants agreed to pay $65, 000.00 to the plaintiffs with
the stated condition that no part of the $65, 000.00 was to
be applied to any employee identified as a shop employee. The
defendants have indicated that the installment payment method
is reasonable considering current cash constraints and the
agreement was silent on the how and when to pay. The
defendants have argued that the parties never finalized the
settlement agreement is construed as a contract and therefore
is enforceable when there is an offer, acceptance, and
consideration. A contract was formed when the parties agreed
to settle the dispute and articulated the agreement in open
court. A discrepancy, after the fact, on the structure of
payment does not amount to an essential term. A contact has
nothing to do with the individual intent of the parties,
rather the parties' objective manifestations.
Zimmerman v. McColley, 826 N.E.2d 71, 78
(Ind.Ct.App. 2005). The plaintiffs were given no indication
that the offer to settle was conditioned on a structured