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Falcone v. Altarock Energy, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

January 16, 2018

DOMENIC J FALCONE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTAROCK ENERGY INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement and Reset Case Deadlines. Dkt. # 32. Defendant opposes the Motion. Dkt. # 35. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises from the parties' dispute over Plaintiff's consulting agreement with Defendant, the facts of which are familiar to the parties. See Dkt. # 30 (Order on Motion for Summary Judgment).

         In April 2017, the parties engaged in settlement negotiations to effectively and efficiently resolve the dispute. Plaintiff argues that a settlement was reached in early June 2017. Defendant counters that it did not agree to settle the matter and wishes to proceed with the litigation. Plaintiff is now before the Court seeking enforcement of the alleged settlement agreement reached in June 2017.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The 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). A settlement agreement is a contract and thus, this Court relies on Washington contract law to determine whether an enforceable settlement agreement exists. Jeff D. v. Andrus, 899 F.2d 753, 759 (9th Cir.1989). To be bound by an agreement, the parties must objectively manifest their mutual assent to the essential terms. Yakima Cnty. Fire Prot. Dist. No. 12 v. City of Yakima, 858 P.2d 245, 255 (Wash. 1993). A party manifests assent to an agreement when the reasonable meaning of a person's words and acts, notwithstanding any subjective reservations of intent, indicates assent. City of Everett v. Sumstad's Estate, 631 P.2d 366, 367 (Wash. 1981). The stated terms must be complete and definite enough for the Court to ascertain their meaning and to fix the parties' contractual liabilities. Keystone Land & Dev. Co. v. Xerox Corp., 94 P.3d 945, 949 (Wash. 2004). Under Washington law, a contract is binding on the parties when the intention of the parties is plain and the parties or their counsel agree on the terms of the contract even if one or both parties contemplated signing a more formal writing in the future. Veith v. Xterra Wetsuits, L.L.C., 183 P.3d 334, 337 (Wash.Ct.App. 2008); Morris v. Maks, 850 P.2d 1357, 1359 (Wash.Ct.App. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Binding Settlement

         Plaintiff contends that a binding settlement was agreed to on June 8, 2017 when he accepted Defendant's offer. Dkt. ## 32, 33-8 at 2. The Court agrees.

         On April 19, 2017, Plaintiff sent a settlement offer to Defendant. Dkt. # 33-2 at 2. Defendant rejected the offer but submitted a counteroffer. Dkt. # 33-3 at 2. Plaintiff declined the counteroffer. Dkt. # 33-4.

         In May 2017, the parties continued to negotiate a settlement. On May 31, 2017, Defendant provided Plaintiff with a final offer to settle the matter. Dkt. # 33-7. The offer stated that it would expire on Friday, June 2, 2017. Id. Plaintiff again countered the offer, but, on June 7, 2017, Defendant stated that it would keep “its offer at $150, 000 to settle this case with Mr. Falcone, which will expire tomorrow.” Dkt. # 33-8. On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff accepted Defendant's offer. Dkt. # 33-8 at 2 (“Don Falcone has authorized me to accept AltaRock's settlement offer of $150, 000.”). Defendant's counsel acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff's acceptance. Id.

         Plaintiff sent a draft settlement agreement to Defendant's counsel. The draft agreement included robust claim release language, and memorialized the parties' agreement that Plaintiff would dismiss his lawsuit in exchange for $150, 000. Dkt. # 33-9. Defendant did not respond with objections to the draft language. On June 19, 2017, Defendant's counsel informed Plaintiff that she was “waiting on an understanding of how soon the funds can be released after the agreement is executed. As soon as I can confirm that, we will have a draft back to you.” Dkt. # 33-11.

         Relying on the settlement agreement, the parties missed several of the Court's pretrial deadlines. Dkt. # 32 at 5. On June 23, 2017, Defendant “made the decision to proceed with litigation” and ...


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