The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINER
Presently before the court is the joint motion of several defendants
to enforce a settlement agreement among these defendants, and the plaintiffs, Marlene Pugh and Arvis Archie, to which no answer has been filed by plaintiffs. For the reasons which follow, the motion is granted.
The facts giving rise to the filing of this motion are as follows. This case was to begin trial on April 7, 1986. Shortly before trial was to begin, the moving defendants and the plaintiffs reached a settlement which provided for the joint payment by the moving defendants to the plaintiffs of Thirty-Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00) in exchange for a Joint Tortfeasor Release. On April 7, 1986, the settlement agreement, authorized by plaintiffs, was announced to the court.
The court then entered a Rule 23(b) order dismissing the action. Subsequently, plaintiff-wife, Marlene Pugh, signed the release of her claims for the consideration of Thirty-Thousand Dollars. However, despite the previous agreement and his wife's signature on the release, plaintiff-husband, Arvis Archie, refused to sign the release of his derivative claim.
It is clear from the statements of plaintiffs' attorney, from plaintiff-wife's signature, and from the lack of any assertion to the contrary, that plaintiffs' attorney had authority to enter into an agreement of settlement of this case; the authority of counsel to settle the case is thus not an issue. Nor have there been allegations of fraud, duress or mutual mistake.
"The law is well settled that a district court has jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement entered into by litigants in a case pending before it." Rosso v. Foodsales, Inc., 500 F. Supp. 274, 276 (E.D. Pa. 1980). See also Hobbs v. American Investors Management, Inc., 576 F.2d 29 (3d Cir. 1978); Meetings & Expositions, Inc. v. Tandy Corp., 490 F.2d 714 (2d Cir. 1974); Autera v. Robinson, 136 U.S. App. D.C. 216, 419 F.2d 1197 (D.C. Cir. 1969). Such jurisdiction is founded on the policy that favors the amicable adjustment of disputes and the avoidance of costly and time-consuming litigation. Rosso, supra at 276; Morris v. Gaspero, 522 F. Supp. 121, 125 (E.D. Pa. 1981); Dacanay v. Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075 (9th Cir. 1978).
Further, it is the law in this circuit that "an agreement to settle a lawsuit, voluntarily entered into is binding upon the parties, whether or not made in the presence of the Court, and even in the absence of a writing." Green v. John H. Lewis & Co., 436 F.2d 389, 390 (3d Cir. 1970). "The obligation to remain bound by a valid agreement of settlement duly entered into by counsel with the authority of his client is one which pervades the law." Good v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co., 384 F.2d 989, 990 (3d Cir. 1967).
The only essential prerequisite for a valid agreement is that the parties mutually assent to the terms and conditions of the settlement. Main Line Theatres, Inc. v. Paramount Film Distributing Corp., 298 F.2d 801, 803 (3d Cir. 1962). Even if one party demands a release following settlement, this does not constitute a reopening of negotiations that provides justification for the other party to renounce the compromise. Id. Moreover, the settlement agreement is still binding even if it is clear that a party had a change of heart between the time he agreed to the terms of the settlement and when those terms were reduced to writing. Gross v. Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., 396 F. Supp. 373, 375 (E.D. Pa. 1975).
In the case sub judice, plaintiffs' attorney had authority to enter into the settlement agreement. Plaintiff-wife, on whose behalf the main portion of the claims against defendants were made, not only agreed to the settlement but signed the release of her claims. Only plaintiff-husband, whose claims are entirely derivative of plaintiff-wife's claims, has refused to sign the release. Under the authority cited above, the only reasonable conclusion is that an enforceable settlement was created.
Even if plaintiff-husband never gave authority to settle or assented to the settlement agreement, nevertheless an enforceable settlement was created as to the moving defendants and both plaintiff-husband and plaintiff-wife, as plaintiff-husband's claims are derivative of his wife's and thus extinguished by his wife's settlement. Plaintiff-husband may have a separate interest, but he does not have a separate cause of action. In the absence of his wife's right to recover, a right extinguished as to the moving defendants by the settlement agreement, plaintiff-husband could not separately pursue his derivative loss of consortium claim. See Hooten v. Pennsylvania College of Optometry, 601 F.Supp. 1151 (E.D. Pa. 1984); Little v. Jarvis, 219 Pa. Super. 156, 280 A.2d 617 (1971). Thus, in the absence of any allegations that might place in doubt the validity of the formation of the settlement agreement, that agreement is enforced in the agreed amount of Thirty-Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00).
Reported by: ROSE A. TOLCHIN, Official Court Reporter, 2722 United States Courthouse, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19106, 215-928-9760.
JOSEPH BERENHOLZ, Esq., Suite 1500, 1015 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19107, Counsel for the Plaintiffs.
FRAN-LINDA KOBEL, Esq., Chief Assistant City Solicitor, 9th Floor, One Reading Center, 1101 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19107-2996, Counsel for City of Philadelphia Police Department, J. Campbell, T. Kane, A. Weisen, J. Healey, Police Officer Garrison, Defendants.
LYNNE S. PALENSCAR, Esq., Fourth Floor, 1315 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19107, Counsel for Keith Thorpe and Lackawanna Detective Agency, Inc., Defendants.
RAWLE & HENDERSON, By: THOMAS P. WAGNER, Esq., 211 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19107, Counsel for Super Fresh Food Markets, Inc. and Chuck McConney, Defendants.
(The Court began proceedings at 9:30 A.M.)
MS. KOBEL: Are you asking who the people are in the back of the court room, Your Honor?
MS. KOBEL: Those are the named defendant police officers ...