Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ma v. Department of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

October 16, 2019

ROLAND MA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion to enforce a settlement agreement between the parties (Dkt. No. 21). Having thoroughly considered the motion and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court has set forth the underlying facts of this case in a prior order and will not repeat them here. (See Dkt. No. 15.) Since November 2018, the parties have discussed settling this matter. (See Dkt. Nos. 22-1 at 2-21, 22-2 at 1-7, 24 at 2-3.) On August 20, 2019, Defendant sent Plaintiff an email with an attached letter dated August 19, 2019, which set forth proposed settlement terms (the “August 19 offer”). (See Dkt. No. 22-2 at 9-11.) On August 30, 2019, Defendant sent Plaintiff another email with an attached settlement release and hold harmless agreement with space provided for Plaintiff's signature (the “August 30 offer”). (See id. at 2-7.) On September 4, 2019, Plaintiff sent Defendant an email which stated, “accepted please expect a teller check by the end of tomorrow” (the “September 4 acceptance”). (Id. at 9.) The September 4 acceptance was sent in response to Defendant's August 20, 2019 email with the August 19 offer. (See id. at 9-11; Dkt. No. 22 at 2.)

         On September 6, 2019, Plaintiff sent defense counsel and email asking, “Could you please advise me are we still in the settlement process that you had offered on behalf of your client? If not, I will go ahead place a stop payment request to the check that I have sent out.” (Dkt. No. 22-2 at 14.) On September 7, 2019, Defendant emailed Plaintiff asking that he “sign and return the attached settlement agreement” and attaching a letter and a copy of the August 30 offer. (See id. at 13, 15-19.) Defendant's letter noted that it had received a check from Plaintiff that appeared to satisfy his outstanding debt to Defendant. (See id. at 15.)

         Later that day, Plaintiff sent Defendant a revised version of the August 30 offer via DocuSign. (See id. at 21-31.) Defendant disagreed with Plaintiff's revisions, asserted that Plaintiff had already agreed to the August 30 offer, and again asked Plaintiff to execute the August 30 offer. (See id. at 33-34.)

         On November 16, 2019, Defendant filed the instant motion. (Dkt. No. 21.) Since Defendant's filing of the motion, the parties have continued to discuss settling this case. (See generally Dkt. Nos. 25, 25-1, 25-2.) In fact, Plaintiff has provided Defendant unaltered copies of the August 30 offer with his electronic signature and has acknowledged that he was the person who signed the offers. (See Dkt. No. 25-1 at 7-10, 15; 25-2 at 14.) Defendant continues to pursue its motion because Plaintiff has not provided an August 30 offer with his handwritten signature. (See Dkt. No. 24 at 2.) Plaintiff has not substantively responded to Defendant's motion.[1]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         “It is well settled that a district court has the equitable power to enforce summarily an agreement to settle a case pending before it.” Callie v. Near, 829 F.2d 888, 890 (9th Cir. 1987) (collecting cases). “However, the district court may enforce only complete settlement agreements.” Id. “Where material facts concerning the existence or terms of an agreement to settle are in dispute, the parties must be allowed an evidentiary hearing.” Id.

         In Washington, “[s]ettlements are considered under the common law of contracts.” Condon v. Condon, 298 P.3d 86, 92 (Wash. 2013). The formation of a contract requires a meeting of the minds between the parties to the contract. See Sea-Van Invs. Assocs. v. Hamilton, 881 P.2d 1035, 1038-39 (Wash. 1994); see also Blue Mt. Constr. Co. v. Grant Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 150-204, 306 P.2d 209, 212 (Wash. 1957) (“The acceptance of an offer is always required to be identical with the offer, or there is no meeting of the minds and no contract.”). Whether a meeting of the minds sufficient to create a contract exists is generally a question of fact. Sea-Van Invs. Assocs., 882 P.2d at 1039. “Where the parties have not reached agreement, there is nothing for equity to enforce.” Haire v. Patterson, 386 P.2d 953, 956 (Wash. 1963).

         B. Settlement Agreement

         Defendant asserts that a valid and enforceable contract exists between the parties following the September 4 acceptance, as Plaintiff agreed to the material terms of the August 30 offer and partially performed by fulfilling his payment obligations. (See Dkt. Nos. 21 at 2-5; 22-2 at 4-7, 9.) But Plaintiff sent the September 4 acceptance in response to the August 19 offer, which set forth materially different terms than the August 30 offer. (See Dkt. No. 22-2 at 9-11.)[2]Thus, it is unclear as to whether there was a meeting of the minds between the parties as to the material terms of the agreement. On this record, the Court cannot find that there was a meeting of the minds on September 4 sufficient to create a contract this Court may enforce pursuant to its equitable powers. See Sea-Van Invs. Assocs., 882 P.2d at 1039; Haire, 386 P.2d at 956.

         But there has been a meeting of the minds between the parties subsequent to the September 4 acceptance: Plaintiff's delivery to Defendant of the August 30 offer with his electronic signature. (See, e.g., Dkt. No. 25-1 at 7-10.) Plaintiff has repeatedly affirmed in emails to Defendant's counsel that Plaintiff was the one who applied his electronic signature to the unaltered August 30 offers sent to Defendant. (See id. at 15; Dkt. No. 25-2 at 14.) As Plaintiff has provided his electronic signature to the August 30 offer without proposed revisions, Plaintiff's acceptance mirrors Defendant's offer and there has been a meeting of the minds between the parties. See Sea-Van Invs. Assocs., 881 P.2d at 1038-39; Blue Mt. Constr. Co., 306 P.2d at 212; (compare Dkt. No. 22-2 at 4-7, with Dkt. No. 25-1 at 7-10). As no material questions of fact remain outstanding, the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.