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McQuirter v. Lehman

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 28, 2017

DEVONA McQUIRTER, ET AL.
v.
NINA LEHMANN, ET AL.

         SECTION “R” (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants move to stay proceedings or, in the alternative, to dismiss plaintiffs' claims.[1] The Court denies defendants' motion as to Plaintiff Devona McQuirter's claim. Construing the motion as to Plaintiff Joseph Campbell's claim as a motion for summary judgment, the Court will grant the motion unless any party files an objection within 14 days.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This diversity case arises out of a motor vehicle accident between plaintiffs and Defendant Nina Lehmann on January 3, 2016. Plaintiffs were allegedly injured when Lehmann rear-ended Campbell's vehicle, in which McQuirter was a passenger.[2] Plaintiffs sued Lehmann, EAN Holdings, LLC, which owned Lehmann's rental car, and ACE American Insurance Company in state court on January 3, 2017.[3] Defendants removed the case to this Court on February 15, 2017, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.[4] Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed Lehmann on April 19, 2017.[5]

         According to defendants, plaintiffs each agreed to settle their claims for $15, 000 in August 2017.[6] Defendants contend that McQuirter agreed to voluntarily dismiss her claim as barred by Louisiana's no pay, no play statute after it was discovered that McQuirter lacked automobile insurance at the time of the accident.[7] See La. R.S. § 32:866. Plaintiffs' counsel has not yet filed a motion to dismiss. Defendants now move to stay proceedings or, in the alternative, to enforce its settlement agreement with Campbell and dismiss plaintiffs' claims.[8] Plaintiffs did not respond to defendants' motion.

         ORDER

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Converting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Campbell's Claim to a Motion for Summary Judgment

         The Court construes defendants' request to enforce the settlement agreement and dismiss Campbell's claim as a motion for summary judgment. In considering a motion to dismiss, a court typically must limit itself to the pleadings and their attachments. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). “If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). But uncontested documents referred to in the pleadings may be considered by the court without converting the motion to one for summary judgment, even when the documents are not physically attached to the complaint. See Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 313 (5th Cir. 2002) (finding that the district court properly considered documents not attached to the complaint in ruling on a Rule 12(c) motion). A court may also consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss without converting it to a summary judgment motion if the documents are referred to in the complaint and are central to the plaintiff's claim. Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004).

         In their motion to enforce the settlement agreement and dismiss Campbell's claim, defendants ask the Court to consider the signed settlement agreement itself. This document is not referred to in plaintiffs' complaint. When a party bases a motion to dismiss on matters outside the pleadings, the court has discretion either to reject the extraneous material, or accept it and convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Isquith ex rel. Isquith v. Middle S. Utils., Inc., 847 F.2d 186, 194 n.3 (5th Cir. 1988); 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1366 (3d ed. 2017). The Court finds that conversion to summary judgment will “facilitate the disposition of the action” by allowing the Court to resolve the question of whether a binding settlement agreement was reached. 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1366 (recognizing that a district court is likely to accept extra-pleading material and convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment when the material is comprehensive and will enable a rational determination of a Rule 56 motion). Therefore, the Court will consider the settlement agreement attached to defendants' motion as material outside the pleadings and convert defendants' motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.

         If a motion to dismiss is converted into a motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant is entitled certain procedural safeguards. See Isquith, 847 F.2d at 195. Specifically, “[u]nder Rule 12(d), a district court may convert a motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment so long as it gives the parties a ‘reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.'” Trinity Marine Prod., Inc. v. United States, 812 F.3d 481, 487 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)). To ensure that all parties have proper notice, the Court will permit any party to file an opposition to summary judgment within 14 days of the entry of this order. If no party files an opposition, this order will become final.

         B. Summary Judgment

         Based on the parties' settlement agreement, defendants are entitled summary judgment on Campbell's claim. Summary judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrain[s] from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398-99 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but “unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth ‘ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient to either support or defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp., 754 ...


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