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Blackwell v. Taylor

March 27, 1985

DEBORAH BLACKWELL
v.
ARTHUR R. TAYLOR, APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey Trenton (D.C. Civil No. 83-4645) District Judge: Honorable John W. Bissell

Author: Aldisert

Before: ALDISERT, Chief Judge, SLOVITER, Circuit Judge, and MANSMANN, District Judge.*fn*

MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THE COURT

ALDISERT, Chief Judge.

The question for decision in this diversity action is whether the district court erred in concluding that the parties had effectively settled their differences on May 22, 1984. Deborah Blackwell, a female companion of Arthur R. Taylor, appellant, filed a criminal complaint of aggravated assault and battery against him in New Jersey state court. She later filed a civil action in the United States District Court in diversity requesting compensatory and punitive damages. The predicate of the actions occurred on November 4-5, 1983, when Taylor assaulted Blackwell in his car and at his home in New Jersey.

On May 22, 1984, Daniel Rabinowitz, a member of the firm of McCarter & English and representative for Miss Blackwell, and William Wolf, a member of the firm Bathgate, Wegener, Wouters & Neumann and representative for Mr. Taylor, entered into pretrial negotiations. The negotiating session culminated in an understanding that Taylor would pay Miss Blackwell $40,000 over a one year period, and that Taylor would immediately forgive an indebtedness of $3,000 she owed him; in return Miss Blackwell agreed to dismiss the civil action in federal court. At no time during these negotiations did the subject of a confidentiality agreement arise.

Counsel subsequently exchanged letters. The letter from Mr. Taylor's attorney on May 30, 1984 to Miss Blackwell's lawyer is significant:

Dear Mr. Rabinowitz:

I am writing this letter, to you, in order to confirm the fact that the above captioned matter has, with the mutual consent of our respective clients, been settled. Simultaneously with sending this letter to you I will forward letters to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey advising that Court that the above captioned matter should be marked as settled.

This letter shall also confirm the terms of the settlement, which are as follows:

A. Payment by Taylor to Blackwell of $40,000;

B. The aforesaid sum of $40,000 is payable; without interest, over a period of one (1) year in ten equal installments of $4,000, the first such installment will be due and payable within ten (10) days of the date on which I receive a fully executed Release and Stipulation of Settlement/Dismissal;

C. Taylor will execute a note evidencing the aforesaid obligation to pay $40,000;

D. Taylor will forgive a $3,000 note, dated September 8, 1982, that was executed by your ...


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