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Stewart v. Allen County Jail

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

May 29, 2018

ALLEN COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.


          Susan Collins United States Magistrate Judge.

         On April 2, 2018, the undersigned Magistrate Judge conducted a settlement conference with the parties (DE 58), during which the parties reached a resolution of this matter and executed a written Settlement Agreement (DE 62-1). Now before the Court is a motion for rescission (DE 59), together with a supporting memorandum (DE 60) and a letter (DE 61), filed by Plaintiff Tyquan Stewart; although Stewart is represented by counsel in this matter, Stewart filed the motion, memorandum, and letter pro se. After Stewart sought rescission, Defendants Parkview Hospital, Inc., and Lakisha Houston (together, “Parkview”), filed a motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement (DE 62). Stewart filed a response (DE 63) to the motion to enforce pro se; Parkview has not filed a reply brief, and its time to do so has now passed. N.D. Ind. L.R. 7-1(d)(2)(B).

         On May 10, 2018, Chief Judge Theresa L. Springmann entered an Order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and Northern District of Indiana Local Rule 72-1(b), referring this case to me to prepare a report and recommendation. (DE 64). Having now reviewed the motions and supporting materials, I recommend that Parkview's motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement be GRANTED and that Stewart's motion for rescission of the Settlement Agreement be DENIED.

         A. Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 29, 2016, Stewart, who was proceeding pro se at the time, filed this case against Parkview and various other Defendants, alleging claims of medical malpractice, discrimination, and cruel and unusual punishment. (DE 1). As to Parkview, Stewart alleged that it committed medical malpractice by refusing him treatment at Parkview's Behavioral Health Hospital, immediately after which he crashed his car in an attempt to commit suicide. (DE 1). Stewart amended his complaint twice. (DE 3; DE 5). After the Court screened Stewart's second amended complaint in connection with his application to proceed in forma pauperis, only Stewart's claims against Parkview remained. (DE 8).

         On October 27, 2016, Attorneys Christopher C. Myers and David W. Frank filed an appearance on Stewart's behalf. (DE 22; DE 23). A month later, Stewart, through counsel, filed a third amended complaint, alleging, among other things, that Parkview violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, by refusing him emergency treatment. (DE 28 ¶¶ 3, 9-14).

         I conducted a preliminary pretrial conference with the parties on December 1, 2016, at which a discovery deadline of July 7, 2017, was established. (AR 33). Parkview filed a motion for summary judgment on August 25, 2017 (DE 43), which was granted in part and denied in part by Chief Judge Springmann on October 20, 2017 (DE 49); Stewart's EMTALA and negligence claims against Parkview survived (DE 49 at 11). A trial date of June 18, 2018, was then set. (DE 51).

         On December, 8, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion for a judicial settlement conference. (DE 53). On April 2, 2018, I conducted a settlement conference with the parties, at which Stewart; David Frank, Stewart's counsel; David Stack, in-house counsel for Parkview, and Mark Baeverstad, outside counsel to Parkview, all appeared in person. (DE 58). At the conference, which lasted for more than four hours, the parties reached a resolution of the case and executed a one-page, handwritten Settlement Agreement. (DE 58; DE 62-1). The Settlement Agreement reads:

Tyquan Stewart and Parkview Hospital, Inc agree to settle all claims arising out of the incident of December 20, 2015 by payment in the amount of $23, 000.00 (Twenty Three Thousand) to Tyquan Stewart and his attorney.
Tyquan Stewart agrees to dismiss, with prejudice, the lawsuit pending in the United States District Court, Cause No. 1:16-CV-00138-JTM-SLC. Parkview Hospital, Inc will prepare and present to Tyquan Stewart and his attorney a release of all claims against Parkview Hospital, Inc and Lakisha Houston, which Tyquan will execute.

(DE 62-1). The Settlement Agreement was signed by Stack, as Director of Risk Management, and Stewart. (DE 62-1). At the end of the conference, the Court went on the record and asked Attorney Frank whether the Settlement Agreement reflected the parties' intentions, and Attorney Frank responded affirmatively. The Court then asked Stewart whether he agreed with the Settlement Agreement, to which Stewart responded: “Yes, yes, Ma'am.” The Court then asked Parkview whether they were in agreement with the terms of the Settlement Agreement, and they, too, responded affirmatively. I instructed the parties to finalize and file the dismissal papers by May 3, 2018. (DE 58).

         Nine days later, on April 11, 2018, Stewart filed the instant motion for rescission pro se, together with a supporting memorandum, contending that his counsel misled and deceived him into settling this case at the settlement conference. (DE 59; DE 60). On April 16, 2018, Stewart filed a letter seeking the same relief. (DE 61). On April 17, 2018, Parkview responded by filing the instant motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement (DE 62), and Stewart filed a response to that motion pro se on April 25, 2018 (DE 63). The motions are now ripe for ruling.

         B. Applicable Legal Standard

         An agreement to settle claims in a federal court is enforceable “just like any other contract.” Dillard v. Starcon Int'l, Inc., 483 F.3d 502, 506 (7th Cir. 2007). Local contract law governs issues regarding the formation, construction, and enforceability of a settlement agreement. Pohl v. United Airlines, Inc., 213 F.3d 336, 338 (7th Cir. 2000). Under Indiana law, which governs here, an agreement to settle a lawsuit is generally enforceable. Zimmerman v. McColley, 826 N.E.2d 71, 76-80 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005). As “[s]ettlement agreements are governed by the same general principles of contract law as any other agreement, ” they require “[a]n offer, acceptance, [and] consideration.” Id. at 76. “It is established that if a party agrees to settle a ...

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