United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Pacific Maritime
Association's (“PMA”) Motion to Enforce
Settlement Agreement. Dkt. # 59. Plaintiff Edmund Oberti
opposes the motion. Dkt. # 61. For the reasons that follow,
the Court GRANTS the motion.
2013, Mr. Oberti sued PMA and the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (“ILWU”), Local 19, for
disability discrimination. Dkt. # 1-1. Mr. Oberti was a
member of the ILWU and worked as a longshoreman. PMA
constitutes a group of employers that hire exclusively from
the ILWU. Local 19 is Mr. Oberti's former local affiliate
of the ILWU.
September 2013, Defendants removed Mr. Oberti's case to
this Court. Dkt. # 1. In February 2014, Mr. Oberti stipulated
to Local 19's dismissal from the lawsuit. Dkt. # 16.
parties dismissed the action in October 2016 after coming to
a mutually agreed upon settlement with benefits to both
sides. Dkt. # 58. That Settlement Agreement provided Mr.
Oberti with three options: A) PMA will advise the ILWU that
PMA supports Mr. Oberti's reinstatement as a Seattle
Class B registered longshore worker and pay him a base
settlement sum; B) if the ILWU does not agree to this
classification, PMA will advise ILWU that PMA supports Mr.
Oberti's reinstatement as a Seattle ID Casual and pay him
a larger base settlement sum; and C) if, by October 31, 2015,
the ILWU refuses to reinstate Mr. Oberti or agrees to
reinstate him with terms unacceptable to either PMA or Mr.
Oberti, or if the ILWU simply does not respond by the
deadline, then PMA will pay Mr. Oberti the largest settlement
sum “in lieu of reinstatement.” Dkt. # 60-1 at
pp. 25-29 (“Settlement Agreement”). The
settlement amount is greatest under Option C because this
option would not only settle the matter but would also
terminate PMA's duty to support Mr. Oberti's
fulfilled its duties under Options A and B by advising the
ILWU that PMA supported Mr. Oberti's reinstatement. Dkt.
# 60-1 at pp. 38-40. ILWU declined. Id. at p. 41.
This triggered Option C of the Settlement Agreement, and PMA
sent Mr. Oberti checks for the agreed upon amounts, which Mr.
Oberti accepted and cashed. Id. at pp. 44-48, Dkt. #
59 at p. 3.
Oberti claims to have been devastated by the ILWU's
decision against his reinstatement. Dkt. # 62-1 at pp. 6-7.
He appealed to the ILWU to reconsider its decision or at the
very least offer an explanation for the denial. Id.
ILWU did neither, and in response Mr. Oberti filed a charge
against the ILWU with the National Labor Relations Board
(“NLRB”), accusing the ILWU of “denying him
a work opportunity that had been agreed upon by [PMA] . . .
.” Dkt. # 60-1 at pp. 4-5. The NLRB then filed a
complaint against the ILWU on behalf of Mr. Oberti seeking,
in part, to require the ILWU to reinstate Mr. Oberti per the
Settlement Agreement. Dkt. # 60-1 at p. 11. PMA successfully
intervened in the NLRB action because it claimed that this
requested reinstatement remedy violates the Settlement
Agreement between Mr. Oberti and PMA. Dkt. # 60-1 at pp.
court has plenary power to enforce agreements to settle
litigation pending before it. City Equities Anaheim v.
Lincoln Plaza Dev. Co. (In re City Equities Anaheim,
Ltd.), 22 F.3d 954, 957 (9th Cir. 1994). The Court finds
that the Settlement Agreement in this matter is unambiguous.
Where a contract is unambiguous, a court can interpret it as
a matter of law. Tanner Elec. Coop. v. Puget Sound Power
& Light, 911 P.2d 1301, 1310 (Wash. 1996).
Oberti relies on extrinsic evidence to prove that PMA must
continue to support his reinstatement beyond October 31,
2015, but a court can use extrinsic evidence only
“‘to determine the meaning of specific words
and terms used' and not to ‘show an intention
independent of the instrument' or to ‘vary,
contradict, or modify the written word.'”
Hearst Comms., Inc. v. Seattle Times Co., 115 P.3d
262, 266 (Wash. 2005) (quoting Hollis v. Garwall,
Inc., 974 P.2d 836, 843 (Wash. 1999)) (emphasis in
Hearst). Absent extrinsic evidence pertaining to a
specific term, the court must “give words in a contract
their ordinary, usual, and popular meaning unless the
entirety of the agreement clearly demonstrates a contrary
intent.” Id. (directing courts to interpret
“what was written” rather than “what was
intended to be written”). Mr. Oberti does not claim
that any term or terms in the Settlement Agreement are
susceptible of an interpretation requiring PMA to support
reinstatement beyond the October 31, 2015 deadline. The Court
will not renegotiate or rewrite the parties' agreement to
erase this provision.
Court agrees with PMA that the Settlement Agreement has been
satisfied. That is, PMA fulfilled its duty to support Mr.
Oberti's reinstatement and upon the ILWU's negative
response, PMA paid Mr. Oberti the largest sum under Option C.
However, the Settlement Agreement is only between Mr. Oberti
and PMA. It does not prohibit Mr. Oberti from pursuing legal
action against the ILWU or its affiliate Local 19 for alleged
violations of the law. Still, allowing Mr. Oberti to pursue
remedies against the ILWU or Local 19 does not enable him to
circumvent the Settlement Agreement with PMA. Therefore, even
if the ILWU were to agree to reinstatement as a result of the
NLRB action, this does not mean that PMA would also be
required to offer its support for reinstatement. Such a
global remedy expired on October 31, 2015.
simply, the Settlement Agreement in this matter is satisfied
and PMA is no longer required to support Mr. Oberti's
reinstatement. Mr. Oberti may not pursue this distinct remedy
in his NLRB action because, as PMA argues, he would be
benefiting by receiving the benefits of both Options A/B and
C. This is a narrow ruling: the Court does not find that the
Settlement Agreement categorically prohibits Mr. Oberti from
pursuing his rights ...