United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
CHEYENNE LUKE PERCLE, JR.
JAY PURDUE, ET AL
R. Summerhays, Judge
THE COURT is a Joint Motion to Enforce Settlement,
Alternative Motion to Re-Open Case and Set for Trial [Doc.
126] filed by Defendants, Officer Jay Purdue and Officer
Dwight Boone [Doc. 126], Motion and Order to Provide
Plaintiff With Records in Entirety From Grodner Law Firm
("Motion to Produce Case File") [Doc. 151] filed by
Cheyenne Luke Percle, Jr. ("Percle"), and Motion to
Contest Notice of Lien [Doc. 152] filed by Percle. As
explained below, the Court DENIES the Motion
to Enforce [Doc. 126] and the Motion to Contest Notice of
Lien [Doc. 152]. The Court GRANTS the Motion
to Produce Case File [Doc. 151].
asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers
Perdue and Boone based on injuries he received during an
arrest in June 2017. This case proceeded and, following
settlement negotiations in May 2019, counsel for Mr. Percle,
Ms. Donna Grodner, sent counsel for Defendants an e-mail
stating that Mr. Percle "has authorized me to accept the
settlement offer tendered by your client in the amount of $5,
000.00." Defendants accepted this offer and notified the
Court that the parties had agreed to settle Mr. Percle's
claims. Accordingly, this Court entered a "60-day
Order" administratively dismissing the case. (Hearing
Exhibit No. 6; Doc. 118). This Order provided that, within 60
days of the Order, the parties were to file one of the
following documents: (1) a motion for entry of judgment on
all claims; (b) a motion to reopen this matter and reinstate
all claims for failure to finalize the settlement agreement;
or (c) a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. [Doc.
118]. The Order further provided that if the parties did not
file one of these documents within 60 days, the Order of
Dismissal would become a final judgment of dismissal with
prejudice. When Percle was presented with settlement papers,
however, he refused to execute those papers. Percle then
filed a pro se motion to add additional defendants, which was
denied. Within the 60-day period of the Order, Officers
Perdue and Boone filed the motion to enforce based on the
agreement to settle between counsel for Percle and counsel
for the Defendants.
August 30, 2019, the Court held a hearing on Defendants'
Motion to Enforce Settlement. Percle testified that he had
never agreed to settle on the terms outlined in settlement
papers he was presented. When his counsel presented the
settlement offer to Percle, he was initially ambivalent about
accepting the offer. When pushed by counsel, Percle accepted
the $5, 000 offer by Defendants with a comment "if that
is all I can get." Percle, however, testified that he
told Grodner that he would not accept any sort of
confidentiality provision or other provision that restricted
him from speaking about the events on the night of his
arrest. Percle testified that, when he received the
settlement documents on May 29th, they included a
confidentiality provision. Percle testified that he believed
that he was being misled about the settlement and, at that
time, decided not to execute the settlement documents. Percle
testified that he wished to proceed with his case.
Percle's former counsel, Ms. Grodner, testified that she
obtained a written "blanket" authority to settle
Percle's claims. This written authority was dated June
11, 2018, almost a year before the settlement discussions at
issue. (Hearing Exhibit No. 7). That document states that
Percle was providing authorization "to settle for as
much as we can get in your case." (Id.). Percle
signed this document, but, below his signature, handwrote
"I want to know the offers before acceptance."
MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT
Fifth Circuit has stated that "settlement agreements,
when fairly arrived at and properly entered into, are
generally viewed as binding, final, and as conclusive of the
rights of the parties as is a judgment entered by the
court." Rodriguez v. Via Metro. Transit Sys.,
802 F.2d 126, 128 (5th Cir. 1986). Accordingly, settlement
agreements may not be repudiated absent "fraud,
deception, coercion or overreaching...." Id. at
129. Courts, therefore, have the inherent power not only to
recognize and encourage settlements, but also to enforce such
agreements when reached by the parties. Bell v.
Schexnayder, 36 F.3d 447, 449 (5th Cir. 1994). Before
exercising this inherent power, a court must determine
whether an agreement was reached between the parties. A
settlement agreement is a contract and is governed by the
same rules governing contract formation and interpretation.
In re RaymarkIndus., Inc., 831 F.2d 550, 553 (5th
Cir. 1987); La. Civ. Code Art. 3071 ("A compromise is a
contract.") A settlement agreement "settles only
those differences that the parties clearly intended to
settle, including the necessary consequences of what they
express." La. Civ. Code Art. 3076. A valid settlement
agreement therefore requires that there be "a meeting of
the minds between the parties as to what they intended when
the compromise was reached." Rivett v. State Farm
Fire and Cas. Co., 508 So.2d 1356, 1359 (La. 1987).
Court concludes that there was no "meeting of the
minds" with respect to the settlement that the
Defendants seek to enforce. The record reflects that
Percle's tentative remarks with respect to accepting the
$5, 000 offer to settle do not reflect a clear and
unambiguous intent to settle his claims. Moreover, Percle
expressly stated that he would not settle on terms that
included a confidentiality provision. The proposed documents
presented to Percle included a confidentiality provision.
Thus, the settlement terms presented to him in the final
settlement papers were not the terms that he had agreed to
with his counsel. Percle's counsel could not bind him to
those terms because the written authorization to settle that
Percle signed had a handwritten limitation that prevented
Grodner from agreeing to a settlement without Percle's
knowledge and approval. During the hearing on this matter,
counsel for Defendants offered to eliminate the
confidentiality provision. Percle, however, was within his
right to reject Defendants' counteroffer at this stage.
Percle's communications with his counsel about not
accepting a settlement that included any form of
confidentiality requirement shows that this aspect of the
agreement-i.e., no confidentiality restriction-was material
to Percle. The Court, therefore, DENIES
Defendants' Joint Motion to Enforce Settlement in all
MOTION TO PRODUCE CASE FILE
requests that his former counsel, Donna Grodner, turn over
all case-related files and documents to him. Grodner has
filed a response indicating that she has offered to turn over
those files to Percle in the past and Percle has declined.
She does not oppose the request to turn over these files.
Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Percle's
Motion to Produce Case Files. Ms. Grodner is to deliver those
files to Mr. Percle within fourteen (14) days of this ruling.
MOTION TO CONTEST NOTICE OF LIEN
next moves to deny Grodner's "lien" on any
recovery he might receive as well as a request to forfeit
attorney fees resulting from any settlement. As the Court has
stated above, there is no settlement between the parties, nor
does the record reflect that there are currently any
settlement negotiations. Accordingly, the Court finds that
this dispute ...