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Youngblood-West v. Aflac Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

March 27, 2019

LEIGH ANN YOUNGBLOOD-WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
AFLAC INCORPORATED, DANIEL P. AMOS, WILLIAM LAFAYETTE AMOS, JR., CECIL CHEVES, and SAMUEL W. OATES, Defendants.

          ORDER AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION (REDACTED)

          CLAY D. LAND, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Dr. William Lafayette Amos, Jr. asserts a claim for breach of contract against Leigh Ann Youngblood-West for allegedly violating the confidentiality provisions of two settlement agreements. He now moves for summary judgment on his breach of contract claim and seeks permanent injunctive relief (ECF No. 112). For the following reasons, the Court grants Dr. Amos's motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoins Youngblood-West from violating the confidentiality provisions of the settlement agreements to the extent described below.[1]

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment may be granted only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         A FACTUAL RECORD WITHOUT DISCOVERY

         Dr. Amos filed his motion for summary judgment before the parties conducted any discovery. Although this may not be the norm, it is certainly authorized under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b) (unless local rules or a court order direct otherwise, “a party may file a motion for summary judgment at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery”). Youngblood-West has the right to seek discovery if she can establish that discovery is necessary to adequately respond to Dr. Amos's summary judgment motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) (if the nonmoving party shows by affidavit or declaration that it “cannot present facts essential to justify its position, ” the Court may defer or deny the motion for summary judgment, permit further discovery, or issue any other appropriate order). But, in the affidavit or declaration, “the nonmoving party must give more than ‘vague assertions that additional discovery will produce needed, but unspecified, facts.'” Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan Univ., 780 F.3d 1039, 1063 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Reflectone, Inc. v. Farrand Optical Co., Inc., 862 F.2d 841, 844 (11th Cir. 1989)(per curiam)). And, “a plaintiff's entitlement to discovery prior to a ruling on a motion for summary judgment is not unlimited, and may be cut off when the record shows that the requested discovery is not likely to produce the facts needed [by the nonmoving party] to withstand a . . . motion for summary judgment.” Paul Kadair, Inc. v. Sony Corp. of Am., 694 F.2d 1017, 1029-30 (5th Cir. 1983).

         Youngblood-West claims that she needs discovery before she can adequately respond to Dr. Amos's motion for summary judgment. Having reviewed her request, the Court finds that she has not shown that discovery would likely produce facts needed to respond to the pending summary judgment motion. The Court intends to base its decision in part on Youngblood-West's verified complaint, assuming her factual allegations to be true and construing reasonable inferences in her favor. Thus, she certainly does not need discovery to confirm the facts that she alleges in her complaint given that the Court is going to accept those facts for purposes of the pending motion. Moreover, the essential foundation of Dr. Amos's motion for summary judgment consists of the two settlement agreements, which are attached as exhibits to both Youngblood-West's and Dr. Amos's complaints. Youngblood-West has never disputed that the material portions of those two documents represent the relevant settlement paperwork that memorializes the two agreements. She simply argues that they are not enforceable because Dr. Amos did not sign them, did not assent to them, did not have the capacity to assent to them, and participated in a conspiracy to procure them by fraud and coercion.

         For purposes of the present motion, the Court accepts as true the allegation that Dr. Amos did not actually sign the agreements. But the conclusory arguments that Dr. Amos did not otherwise assent to them or have the capacity to assent to them are inconsistent with Youngblood-West's other factual allegations in her pleadings in this action, and she has not even bothered to explain the inconsistencies in her affidavit. She certainly does not need discovery to create a factual dispute on these issues when she has already stated her factual position on them, which the Court accepts as true for purposes of the pending motion. And, even if she could create a factual dispute on any of these issues, she would perhaps win the battle but not the war because it is absolutely clear that Dr. Amos would be a third-party beneficiary to the agreements and have the legal right to enforce them, notwithstanding any alleged lack of capacity or assent on his part. Furthermore, Youngblood-West acknowledges that she has never tendered the consideration she received under the agreements, and, even if her excuses for failing to do so are true, they do not provide a legal basis for now rescinding the settlement agreements based on fraud. Consequently, discovery will not assist her with regard to this claim for avoiding her responsibilities under the agreements.

         The Court notes that it has addressed the enforceability of these settlement agreements on two previous occasions in this litigation. It found the agreements enforceable for the purpose of deciding Youngblood-West's motion to dismiss Dr. Amos's breach of contract claim; it also found them enforceable when deciding Dr. Amos and other Defendants' motions to dismiss Youngblood-West's claims against them in this action. Breach Action, Order (Aug. 7, 2018), ECF No. 19 at 7-10; RICO Action, Order (Oct. 22, 2018), ECF No. 88 at 33-41. The Court also previously decided that Youngblood-West is not entitled to discovery in this action to decide the pending summary judgment motion. As the Court previously noted in its order rejecting Youngblood-West's Rule 56(d) declaration, the issues remaining to be decided on summary judgment “either involve pure questions of law and/or do not involve genuine factual disputes.” RICO Action, Order (Dec. 19, 2018), ECF No. 118 at 2. The Court has “previously determined the enforceability of the agreements, taking Youngblood-West's allegations as true.” Id. And, it is “not necessary for her to engage in discovery to confirm those allegations” when the Court considers them established for purposes of the pending motion. Id.[2] As to her request that she needs to discover matters apart from what she alleged in her pleadings and what is indisputably established by the settlement agreements, the Court finds that the information she seeks to discover is not material to the issues raised by Dr. Amos's present motion for summary judgment. The correctness of this finding should become readily apparent in the Court's discussion in the remainder of this order.

         THE FACTS

         Viewed in the light most favorable to Youngblood-West, the record reveals the following.

         Around January 5, 1984, [XXXXX]. Youngblood-West later entered into two settlement agreements that released her claims against Dr. Amos. Those agreements form the basis of this action.

         The first agreement was signed on August 28, 1992. In that agreement, Youngblood-West and her late husband released Dr. Amos and Medstrategies, Georgia, Inc. (“Medstrategies”), a for-profit entity that Dr. Amos is CEO and CFO of, from claims [XXXXX] Breach Action, Compl. Ex. A, 1992 Settlement Agreement 1, ECF No. 2-1. In exchange for the release, Youngblood-West was promised [XXXXX]. Id. The 1992 settlement agreement also contained a confidentiality provision stating, “[Youngblood-West and her late husband] further covenant that neither they nor their counsel shall reveal to anyone the alleged acts or omissions giving rise to their claims against any party released hereby, or any other matter relevant to such claims, the fact or existence of this release agreement, any of the terms of this release agreement or any of the amounts, numbers or terms and conditions of any sums payable to the undersigned hereunder.” Id. at 2. A provision of the agreement also stated, “[i]n the event of a breach of any of the terms or provisions of this release agreement, [Youngblood-West and her late husband] shall not be bound by their covenant or agreement of confidentiality contained in this release agreement.” Id. Youngblood-West signed the agreement. Dr. Amos did not.[3]Youngblood-West received the payment due under the agreement and has not tendered or attempted to tender this settlement payment back to the payor before filing suit.

         Later, on November 19, 1993, in exchange for [XXXXX], Youngblood-West and her late husband entered a second settlement agreement releasing a number of parties, including Dr. Amos and Medstrategies, from these same and additional claims. Breach Action, Compl. Ex. B, 1993 Settlement Agreement ¶ 2, ECF No. 2-2. This agreement also had a confidentiality provision which stated that in exchange for [XXXXX], Youngblood-West and her late husband “shall maintain at all time the confidentiality of this agreement and shall not reveal to anyone, including other attorneys . . ., the alleged acts or omissions giving rise to their claim against any party released hereby, or any other matter relevant to such claims, [or] the fact or existence of this release agreement.” Id. ¶ 6. The agreement also states that “[Youngblood-West and her late husband] acknowledge that the damage to the parties being released hereby would be irreparable and difficult to ascertain and that their remedy at law would be inadequate.” Id. ¶ 7. It contemplates that if Youngblood-West or her late husband breach the confidentiality provision in the agreement, “the parties paying the consideration for this confidentiality agreement shall be entitled to receive . . . . . . which sum [Youngblood- West and her late husband] agree is a reasonable pre-estimate of the damages from such a breach.” Id. The agreement also contemplates that the released parties could obtain a “permanent injunction . . . against [Youngblood-West or her late husband] restricting them from violating the terms of this confidentiality agreement.” Id. ¶ 8. The agreement states, “[e]ach of the undersigned acknowledges and agrees that there is a prior settlement and release and confidentiality agreement between the undersigned and [Dr. Amos], which prior agreement does and shall remain in full force and effect.” Id. ¶ 11. And, the agreement states that “[t]his agreement and the prior one may not be modified unless it is done so in writing signed by the party to be bound.” Id.

         Youngblood-West does not dispute that she received the settlement payment under this 1993 agreement and did not tender the payment back to the payor before filing this suit. Youngblood-West, her late husband, and their attorney all signed the agreement. No. other party signed the agreement. Youngblood-West received a check from [XXXXX] Id. at 8 (depicting a copy of the check with the signatures of Youngblood-West, her husband, and their attorney underneath). Dr. Amos's signature appears on the signature line of this check. Compare id., with 1992 Settlement Agreement 4 (showing a signature block with Dr. Amos's signature that matches the signature on the [XXXXX]).[4]

         On March 16, 2018, Youngblood-West's attorney sent a letter to two attorneys at the law firm of Alston & Bird discussing [XXXXX]. Breach Action, Compl. Ex. C, Letter from D. Joffe to L. Cassilly and M. Gill (Mar. 16, 2018), ECF No. 2-3. Then, on April 14, 2018, Youngblood-West's attorney emailed several Alston & Bird attorneys a 51-page draft RICO complaint against Aflac, Dr. Amos, and others. Breach Action, Compl. Ex. D, Email from D. Joffe to J. Grant, M. Gill, L. Cassilly, S. Pryor, and J. Bogan (Apr. 14, 2018), ECF No. 2-4; id. Ex. ...


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