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Hughes v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 22, 2015

KEVIN HUGHES,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Section

ORDER AND REASONS

MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment to enforce the settlement agreement. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

Background

This personal injury lawsuit arises from Kevin Hughes's claim that he was injured during a car accident involving a government vehicle on May 14, 2013. Hughes sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act on May 1, 2014. Following a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Wilkinson on March 26, 2015, the parties agreed to settle the case for $40, 000.00. On March 27, 2015, the Court entered an Order of Dismissal in which the Court retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement.

When the United States Department of the Treasury received the settlement agreement signed by both parties, it issued a check to Hughes in the amount of $40, 000. However, the Department of Treasury was statutorily obligated to offset the amount pursuant to 31 U.S.C. ยง3716. The Department of Treasury identified the United States Department of Education and the Office of the Attorney General as the government agencies collecting the plaintiff's outstanding debt in the amount of $39, 259.66. Therefore, the plaintiff received a check in the amount of $740.34.[1]

The plaintiff now seeks to enforce the settlement agreement; he seeks the full $40, 000 settlement amount.

I.

A.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is proper if the record discloses no genuine dispute as to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No genuine dispute of fact exists if the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine dispute of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. See id. Summary judgment is also proper if the party opposing the motion fails to establish an essential element of his case. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In this regard, the non-moving party must do more than simply deny the allegations raised by the moving party. See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992). Rather, he must come forward with competent evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress his claim. Id . Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents that cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence at trial do not qualify as competent opposing evidence. Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2). Finally, in evaluating the summary judgment motion, the Court must read the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

B.

Louisiana law indicates that a compromise settles only those differences that the parties clearly intended to settle, including the necessary consequences of that they express. Smith v. Amedisys Inc., 298 F.3d 434, 445 (5th Cir. 2002). When a contract can be construed from the four corners of the instrument without looking at extrinsic evidence, the question of contractual interpretation is answered as a matter of law and thus summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 448.

II.

The plaintiff seeks summary judgment to enforce the settlement. He contends that he is entitled to summary judgment to enforce the settlement agreement for three reasons: (1) the settlement agreement clearly states the United States has to pay $40, 000 and they only paid $740, (2) the offset was not required, and (3) alternatively, the United States cannot seize the attorney's fee and costs. The United States opposes the motion because (1) it met all settlement obligations, (2) the plaintiff, and not the United States, is solely indebted to any third parties who rendered services ...


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