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Deep South Equipment Co. v. Jones Motor Group, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 2, 2019

DEEP SOUTH EQUIPMENT COMPANY
v.
JONES MOTOR GROUP, INC., HAMRE EQUIPMENT COMPANY, INC., PATRIOT BROKERAGE, INC. and PORTS AMERICA SHARED SERVICES, INC.

         SECTION: “M” (4)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN WELLS ROBY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement filed by Jones Motor Group, Inc. Rec. Doc.35. The motion is opposed. Rec. Doc. 38 (Deep South Equipment Company and Hamre Equipment, Inc. Rec. doc. 43. A Reply to the plaintiff's opposition was filed. Rec. doc. 47. The matter was submitted on the briefs.

         This matter was filed before the United States Magistrate Judge and was referred to the undersigned for hearings and resolution including a report and recommendation pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), § 1915e(2), and § 1915A, and as applicable, Title 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) and (2). (Rec. doc. 40)

         I. Background

         A. The Underlying Claim

         According to the complaint, Deep South Equipment Company (“Deep South”) repaired a 2013 Hyster H1150HD-CH chassis container handler ("Hyster") and simply wants to be paid for it. At all relevant times, Ports America Shared Services, Inc. ("Ports America") was the owner of the Hyster. As part of a multi-party shipping agreement, Ports America hired Hamre Equipment Company, Inc. ("Hamre") to move the Hyster from Oakland, CA to New Orleans, LA. Hamre contracted a brokerage company, Patriot Brokerage, Inc. ("Patriot"), to assist with the transport. Patriot, in turn, subcontracted Jones Motor Group, Inc. ("Jones Motor Group”). On or about June 21, 2016, the Hyster left Oakland on a trailer leased from Jones Motor Group. While in route to New Orleans, the driver of the load, Adrian Brown, was involved in an accident in Texas, during which the Hyster was badly damaged.

         Deep South was initially contacted by Ports America to repair its Hyster. Deep South was then put in contact with a representative of Jones Motor Group, who approved the initial service proposal and authorized Deep South to proceed with the repairs. Ports America commissioned plaintiff, Deep South to repair the Hyster. The Hyster was returned to Ports America, and it is now in use. A parts list, timeframe and updated quote were sent to Jones Motor Group and Patriot, who both authorized Deep South to proceed with the repairs. Deep South completed repairs on or about January 31, 2017, but the final invoice for $93, 054.44 remained unpaid.

         B. The Settlement Dispute

         On October 29, 2018, counsel for the parties appeared before the undersigned for a settlement conference. After negotiating for close to two hours, the parties were able to reach a global settlement of all claims after Jones Motor agreed to pay $85, 000 to Deep South. After securing an agreement of parties the Court confirmed the agreement on the record.

         Jones Motor Group's counsel also expressly stated on the record that the settlement “included the claims by Deep South or any of the co-defendants in the case: and that “there will be a global release entered into as a material art of the settlement.” (Settlement Transcript, October 29, 2018) Rec. Doc. 38-1. Counsel for Deep South, Mr. Langley, also confirmed on the record that there were no claims that originate by/through, or under Deep South. He also represented that Deep South has not filed and will file any liens or encumbrances against the piece of equipment that was repaired. (Settlement Transcript, Rec. doc. 38-1, P.4)

         The Court thereafter inquired if there was anything further to add on the record by anybody at which point Hamre's counsel indicated that “Your Honor, just to be clear, this settlement will also resolve any and all claims that are among the other defendants arising out of this litigation. Id. No. one else made statements on the record and the undersigned proceeded to notify the District Judge that the matter was resolved. The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed on October 30, 2018. Rec. doc. 34.

         After the conference a dispute arose over the claims included in the release agreement. Specifically, Jones Motor Group contends the settlement should include all claims based on the same transition and occurrence, to include brokerage or transport fees incurred by Patriot, Jones Motor Group and/or others. All claims relative to the transportation of this equipment and the ensuing accident should be released

         During a subsequent telephone conference, counsel for Patriot stated that he does not have authority to sign the settlement agreement even though he was present in the courtroom when the agreement was read onto the record and never expressed any opposition. Rec. doc. 38. Jones Motor Group contends that the release should include, at minimum, all claims based on the same transaction and occurrence, including brokerage or transport fees incurred by Patriot, Jones Motor Group and/or others. ...


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