United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
BELINDA LEE MALEY, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Matthew Clinton Loflin, deceased; and GENE LOFLIN, individually; Plaintiffs,
CORIZON HEALTH, INC., a Delaware Corporation, and SCOTT KENNEDY, M.D., Defendants.
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees
and Costs (Doc. 151) and Defendants' Motion to Enforce
Settlement (Doc. 152). For the following reasons,
Plaintiffs' motion (Doc. 151) is DENIED
and Defendants' motion (Doc. 152) is
February 22, 2016, Plaintiff Belinda Maley filed this action
seeking to recover for the wrongful death of her son, Matthew
Loflin. (Doc. 1.) Loflin's father, Gene Loflin, was later
added as a plaintiff in this action. (Doc. 92.) Plaintiffs
sought to recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendant Corizon Health, Inc. ("Corizon") and
Defendant Dr. Scott Kennedy for the alleged deliberate
indifference to Loflin's medical condition. (Doc. 1.)
amended complaint also requested that "the Court require
Defendant Corizon to pay the legal costs and expenses herein
including reasonable attorney's fees . . . ." (Doc.
92 at 20.) Plaintiffs included a similar request regarding
Defendant Kennedy. (Id. at 21.)
trial on this case was set to begin on July 15, 2019 in
Savannah, Georgia. (Doc. 151 at 2.) However, on July 12,
2019, following a telephone conference with the Court,
Plaintiffs accepted a settlement offer from Defendants for
$850, 000 in an e-mail. (Doc. 152, Attach. 1.) In this e-mail,
Plaintiffs' counsel told Defendants' counsel that he
would "notify the court of the settlement and release
all witnesses we have under subpoena." (Doc. 152,
Attach. 1.) On the same day, Plaintiffs' counsel sent an
email that provided Defendants with Plaintiffs' W-9 form
and instructed Defendants to "order the check and have
it made payable to 'Belinda Maley, Estate of Matthew
Loflin, Gene Loflin and Jones, Osteen & Jones'."
(Doc. 152, Attach. 2.) The following day, July 13, 2019,
Plaintiffs' counsel thanked Defendants' counsel for
their "professionalism and efforts to get this case
resolved." (Doc. 152, Attach. 3.)
16, 2019, Defendants' counsel emailed the Confidential
Settlement Agreement and Release (Doc. 153, Attach. 5) to
Plaintiffs' counsel, but Plaintiffs' counsel
responded by informing Defendants that he does not
"typically enter into any release especially when, as
here, the statutes of limitation and repose have run. Upon
receipt of the settlement proceeds, I will file a dismissal
with prejudice." (Doc. 152, Attach. 4.) Plaintiffs'
counsel sent another e-mail on July 18, 2019 objecting to
certain confidentiality provisions of the Confidential
Settlement Agreement and Release. (Doc. 155, Attach. 4.)
Following Plaintiffs' counsel's instructions,
Defendants remitted the settlement proceeds to Plaintiffs on
July 26, 2019, with a letter stating that the payment
"represents full and final settlement of all claims
asserted by Ms. Maley against Corizon Health, Inc. and Dr.
Scott Kennedy." (Doc. 155, Attach. 5.) The check was
made payable to Plaintiffs and their counsel. (Doc. 155,
August 29, 2019, over a month after receiving the settlement
proceeds, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Attorneys'
Fees and Costs. (Doc. 151.) Subsequently, on September 10,
2019, Defendants filed their Motion to Enforce Settlement
(Doc. 152) and Brief in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion
for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Doc. 153) . On September
23, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Reply to Defendants'
Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees
and Costs (Doc. 155) and their Response in Opposition to
Defendants' Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. 156). On
October 3, 2019, Defendants filed replies to both of
Plaintiffs' previously mentioned documents. (Doc. 159;
Doc. 160.) As of the date of this order, Plaintiffs have not
signed the settlement agreement or filed a notice of
Motion to Enforce Settlement
their Motion to Enforce Settlement, Defendants argue that the
parties have a valid, enforceable agreement because
"correspondence between the parties demonstrates mutual
assent to the terms of the settlement agreement . . . ."
(Doc. 152 at 7.) Specifically, Defendants assert that
Plaintiffs' behavior indicates that the remittance of
settlement proceeds was for "full settlement of all
claims" against Defendants. (Doc. 152 at 8.) Defendants
contend that "Plaintiffs' acceptance was unequivocal
and did not carve out any exceptions or conditions ....
Thereafter, all parties acted consistently with a complete
compromise of the case." (Doc. 152 at 7.)
response, Plaintiffs concede that the case was "settled
for a total of $850, 000" (Doc. 151 at 3) and
"agree that the parties reached a full and final
resolution of the underlying substantive § 1983 claims
only." (Doc. 156 at 5.) Thus, Plaintiffs' only
contention is that the settlement agreement does not include
attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 because they
were never discussed. (Doc. 156.)
courts "use the applicable state's contract law to
construe and enforce settlement agreements." Vinnett
v. Gen. Elec. Co., 271 Fed.Appx. 908, 912 (11th Cir.
2008) (citing Ins. Concepts Inc. v. W. Life Ins.
Co., 639 F.2d 1108, 1111-12 (5th Cir. 1981)). Under
Georgia law, "in order to succeed on a motion to enforce
a settlement agreement, a party must show the court 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
[non-movant's] case." Fitzhugh v. AB
McDonough's. Inc., No. CV416-113, 2017 WL 937965, at
*2 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 9, 2017) (enforcing a settlement where
"there was a meeting of the minds between the parties
regarding settlement as reflected in . . . emails between the
parties' respective counsel.") (quoting
DeRossett Enters., Inc. v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp.,
275 Ga.App. 728, 729, 621 S.E.2d 755, 756 (Ga.Ct.App. 2005)).
settlement agreement is a contract, and it must meet the same
requirements of formation and enforceability as other
contracts." DeRossett Enters., Inc., 621 S.E.2d
at 756. "A definite offer and complete acceptance, for
consideration, create a binding contract." Moreno v.
Strickland, 255 Ga.App. 850, 853, 567 S.E.2d 90, 92
(Ga.Ct.App. 2002). Additionally, "the law favors
compromise, and when parties have entered into a definite,
certain, and unambiguous agreement to settle, it should be
enforced." Id. Even where parties have not
signed a formal settlement agreement, "letters or
documents prepared by attorneys which memorialize the terms
of the agreement reached will suffice." Brumbelow v.
N. Pipeline Gas Co., 251 Ga. 674, 676, 308 S.E.2d 544,
547 (1983); see also Jackson v. Cooper Lighting,
LLC, No. 1:11-CV-067, 2013 WL 1501611, at *2 (M.D. Ga.
Apr. 10, 2013) ("[T]he fact that Plaintiff did not sign
the agreement does not change the Court's finding that
the parties reached an agreement to settle.").
Moreover," [a]ssent to the terms of the agreement can be
implied from the circumstances, and conduct inconsistent with
a refusal of the terms raises a presumption of assent upon
which the other party can rely." Wong v.
Bailey, 752 F.2d 619, 621 (11th Cir. 1985) (citing
Smith v. Hornbuckle, 140 Ga.App. 871, 875, 232
S.E.2d 149 (Ga.Ct.App. 1977)); see also Blitch Ford, Inc.
v. MIC Property & Cas. Ins. Corp., 981 F.Supp. 1475,
1480-81 (M.D. Ga. 1997) (granting a motion to enforce
settlement agreement where one ...