United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division
DIRECTV, LLC, a California Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff,
STANLEY WELLS, d/b/a WELLS ENTERPRISES and CHATTAHOOCHEEONLINE.COM, TRIPOLIE WELLS, a/k/a TRIPOLIE SCOTT, d/b/a DIGITAL CONNECTIONS, and JAZZMIN WELLS, d/b/a DIGITAL CONNECTIONS, Defendants.
W. LOUIS SANDS, Chief District Judge.
Before the Court is Plaintiff DIRECTV's Motion to Approve Consent Judgment (Doc. 52), Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. 54), Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 54), and Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. 53.) The Court will consider each of Plaintiff's Motions.
I. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL and FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On February 27, 2013, Plaintiff brought an action against Stanley Wells, doing business as Wells Enterprises and ChattahoocheeOnline.com, and Tropolie Wells, and Jazzmin Wells, both doing business as Digital Connection (hereinafter "Defendants"). Therein, Plaintiff alleged Defendants created fraudulent subscriber accounts and used them to activate and sell Plaintiff's proprietary equipment to individuals Plaintiff was not under contract with. (Doc. 1, at ¶1.) As a result, Plaintiff brought action claiming Defendants violated the Federal Communications Act ("FCA"), 47 U.S.C. § 605, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-21, and the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114 and 1125, and sought injunctive relief as well as damages. ( Id., at ¶¶2-3.) On March 26, 2013, Defendants answered Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 13.)
After considering several motions, the Court entered a Discovery and Scheduling Order on August 13, 2013. (Doc. 36.) On September 26, 2013, acknowledging the Court's Discovery and Scheduling Order, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. 41) and Motion to Compel Initial Disclosures and Order to Show Cause (Doc. 42) after Defendants failed to serve their initial Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1) disclosures. (Doc. 47.) Granting Plaintiff's Motion except for its request for an Order to Show Cause, this Court ordered Defendants to provide all initial disclosures and requested written discovery to Plaintiff no later than November 7, 2013. ( Id. )
Simultaneous to discovery taking place, during the months of November and December after Defendants Tripolie Wells and Jazzmin Wells were deposed, settlement discussions between the parties took place. ( See Doc. 52; Doc. 57.) On December 30, 2013, Plaintiff drafted an agreement for both parties to agree upon. (Doc. 52.) Under the impression no settlement agreement would be finalized until all Defendants signed the agreement and were given a day to review all related documents, Defendants Stanley and Tripolie Wells signed Plaintiff's draft settlement agreement. (Doc. 52-2, at 1-12; Doc. 57.) Defendant Jazzmin Wells did not sign the agreement. ( Id. ) On December 31, 2014, Defendants and Plaintiff disagreed upon terms included in the settlement agreement. (Doc. 57-1, at 6-10.) On December 31 later that day, after an e-mail correspondence between Defendant Stanley Wells and Plaintiff's counsel disagreeing on settlement terms, Plaintiff's counsel sent notice of Plaintiff's intent to file the settlement agreement with Stanley and Tripolie Wells' signatures. (Doc. 57-1.)
On January 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Approve Consent Judgment (Doc. 52) asking this Court to enforce its drafted settlement agreement and a Motion to Compel Discovery. (Doc. 53.) A few weeks later, on January 30, 2014, Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. 54.) Pro Se Defendants filed their response on February 21, 2014. (Doc. 57.)
A. Motion to Approve Consent Judgment
Plaintiff contends an enforceable settlement agreement exists between the parties and as a result, the Court should enter a Consent Judgment on its behalf. (Doc. 52.) A consent judgment is a judicial act whereby a Court renders judgment on a plaintiff's right of recovery with the intent it be given the same force and effect as a judgment after a trial. Pope v. US, 323 U.S. 1, 12 (1944); Mastercraft Fabrics Corp. v. Dickson Elberton Mills Inc., 821 F.Supp. 1503, 1510 (M.D. Ga. 1993). Under Georgia law, a court's review of a motion to enforce a settlement agreement by consent is similar to the analysis court's undertake in reviewing a motion for summary judgment. Jackson v. Cooper Lighting, LLC, No. 1:11-cv-067-WLS, 2013 WL 1501611, at *1 (M.D. Ga. 2013); see e.g. Ballard v. Williams, 476 S.E.2d. 783, 784 (Ga.Ct.App. 1996). When analyzing a settlement agreement courts must decide whether the movant has shown "that the documents, affidavits, depositions and other evidence in the record reveal that there is no evidence sufficient to create a jury issue on at least one essential element of the plaintiff's case." Jackson, 2013 WL 1501611, at *1 (citing Ballard, 476 S.E.2d at 784). Just as the standard in summary judgment proceedings, courts must view all genuine issues of material fact in favor of the nonmoving party. Id.
Settlement agreements between parties are construed and governed by traditional contract principles under Georgia law. Wong v. Bailey, 752 F.2d 619, 621 (11th Cir. 1985). Settlements must meet the same contract formation and enforceability requirements all other contracts are scrutinized under. Id. Ensuring mutual assent regarding the terms of a settlement is imperative to the enforceability of a contract. Jackson, 2013 WL 1501611, at *2. Mutual assent to a settlement agreement can be implied from both surrounding circumstances and conduct. Id. Multiple documents submitted as evidence may be read collectively in discerning both the elements and terms of a contract. Dibrell Bros. Intern. S.A. v. Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro, 38 F.3d 1571, 1582 (11th Cir. 1994). No contract can exist in Georgia unless the parties are in agreement on all of the material terms and conditions and nothing is left to future agreement. Id.
Defendants argue they did not enter into an enforceable settlement agreement with Plaintiff because they disagreed on the initial payment schedule and since Defendant Jazzmin Wells did not sign the settlement agreement. Viewing the records of this case in full from a perspective most favorable to Defendants, the Court is unconvinced no question of fact remains as to the enforceability of Plaintiff's settlement agreement. E-mail correspondence between the Parties show, amongst other issues, a potential inability to reach an agreement on "New Payment Terms" within their settlement. (Doc. 57-1, at 6.) During that correspondence, Plaintiff's counsel suggested his directions were to "withdraw" the settlement offer unless Defendants agreed to all of the items outstanding including payment issues. ( Id. ) In response, Defendant Stanley Wells expressed an unwillingness to accept the additional terms for settlement, particularly the "New Payment Terms." ( Id. at 8-9.) Certainly, a fact finder could conceivably gleam a lack of assent between the parties.
Therefore, for the reasons mentioned, Defendant's Motion to Approve Consent ...