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Eastman v. Biomet, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

November 9, 2017

DONALD WAYNE EASTMAN, Plaintiff
v.
BIOMET, INC., et al., Defendants

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         After their attorneys agreed on resolution of Donald Eastman's claim against Biomet, Inc., Biomet sent Mr. Eastman a release to sign. Mr. Eastman signed the release after secretly modifying it so that the release no longer was designed to exempt Biomet from further claims by Mr. Eastman. Mr. Eastman sent the signed paper back to Biomet and received a check. Mr. Eastman cashed the check and retains the money, but now claims Biomet owes him more. Mr. Eastman and Biomet both have moved for summary judgment, and I will grant Biomet's motion because neither the law nor the facts support Mr. Eastman's claim.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to the interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists whenever “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, “the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Weigle v. SPX Corp., 729 F.3d 724, 730 (7th Cir. 2013). The existence of an alleged factual dispute, by itself, won't defeat a summary judgment motion; “instead, the nonmovant must present definite, competent evidence in rebuttal, ” Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012), and “must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). “[S]ummary judgment is ‘not a dress rehearsal or practice run; it is the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of events.” Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005)).

         II. Background

         The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established this MDL docket for claims in which plaintiffs claim personal injuries from a metal-on-metal artificial hip that Biomet manufactured and placed into the stream of commerce. In January 2014, Biomet and Plaintiffs' Executive Committee entered into a Master Settlement Agreement. The Master Settlement Agreement provides a procedure for categorizing case values and resolving disputes between individual plaintiffs and Biomet over the settlement payment an individual plaintiff is entitled to receive.

         In April 2014, Donald Eastman filed a complaint against Biomet, asserting that his Biomet M2a-38 hip replacement device was defective. Eastman v. Biomet, Inc., et al, Case No. 3:14-cv-00771-RLM-CAN. Mr. Eastman and Biomet agreed to settle that suit, and in February 2015, Mr. Eastman signed a confidential release of all claims confirming the agreement and fully and completely releasing all claims against Biomet.

         The release says Mr. Eastman "shall receive the sum of $25, 000.00.” The release also included Mr. Eastman's acknowledgment that the $25, 000 “shall constitute the full compensation which will ever be paid to [Mr. Eastman] by [Biomet].” After Mr. Eastman executed the release, Biomet paid him $25, 000. Mr. Eastman admits that payment was deposited into the trust account of Mr. Singleton, Mr. Eastman's counsel of record in that suit. The parties filed a stipulation of dismissal signed by Mr. Singleton [Doc. No. 59], and I ordered dismissal with prejudice [Doc. No. 60].

         Mr. Eastman now says he “conditionally signed” the release that Biomet drafted, asserting that it didn't “absolve Biomet from future claims on damages, ” and that Biomet is in breach by offering and awarding Eastman a settlement much lower than the amount stipulated in paragraph 2 of the Master Settlement Agreement. Mr. Eastman made several changes to the signed release's terms before Mr. Singleton sent it to Biomet:

• he changed “irrevocable” to “revocable” in Paragraph 5;
• he changed “binding” to “nonbinding” in Paragraph 8j; and
• he changed “Indiana” to “Arkansas” in the choice of law provision.

         Mr. Eastman says he made those changes to protect his right to sue Biomet in the future for breaching the Master Settlement Agreement. Biomet argues that the parties stipulated to dismissal without Mr. Eastman or his counsel telling it of any changes.

         Two months after I dismissed the first suit, Mr. Eastman filed this case without an attorney in the western district of Arkansas, contending that Biomet breached the parties' settlement agreement by paying him only $25, 000 rather than $200, 000. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the new case to the MDL, and in April 2016, I denied Mr. Eastman's motion for ...


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