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Miles v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 31, 2013

JAMIE MILES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CAROL SANDRA MOORE WELLS, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND and PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

On June 21, 2011, Jamie Miles, ("Plaintiff"), sued the City of Philadelphia, Captain Dennis Gallagher ("Gallagher"), Sergeant Steve Naughton ("Naughton"), Corporal Karen Preston ("Preston"), and Corporal Juan Vega ("Vega") ("Defendants") seeking relief based upon alleged sex discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e and the Pennsylvania Humans Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. §§ 951-963. On July 18, 2013, an in-court settlement conference was attended by Plaintiff, Ms. Alexis Zafferes, (counsel for Plaintiff), Defendant Vega, Mr. Alan Epstein, (counsel for Defendant Vega), Ms. Jennifer Chalal, (counsel for Defendant Vega), and Ms. Cara Leheny, (counsel for Defendant the City of Philadelphia).[2]

During caucus, in the presence of the undersigned, Plaintiff authorized her attorney to settle the matter for a minimum of $62, 500 in compensatory damages and a transfer to the 2nd or 7th Police District, in exchange for Plaintiff relinquishing her Fraternal Order of Police ("FOP") grievance and demand for arbitration regarding a failure to promote. See Transcript of Rule to Show Cause Hearing, 11/12/13, ("Tr. 11/12/13") at 41-42. This concession came after Plaintiff spoke privately on the telephone with Mr. Mark Gelman, (Plaintiff's counsel for the FOP arbitration), see id. 41-42, as well as with her other attorney, Mr. Puricelli. See id. 19-20. Plaintiff was tearful, but expressed her willingness to settle, because Mr. Gelman informed her that it was highly improbable that she would prevail in her FOP arbitration case. See id. at 43. Plaintiff, however, sought the court's assistance in obtaining the best possible monetary offer from the Defendants. See id. at 42. Negotiations at the conclusion of the July 18, 2013 Settlement Conference resulted in two alternate offers for settlement:

First: Plaintiff could receive $35, 000 in compensatory damages, a transfer to either the 2nd or 7th Police Districts within ninety (90) days and retain her right to pursue her FOP arbitration; or
Second: Plaintiff could receive $62, 500 in compensatory damages, a transfer to either the 2nd or 7th Police Districts within ninety (90) days, in exchange for relinquishing her right to pursue her FOP arbitration.

In order to attempt to get a higher amount, as Plaintiff wished, the court recommended that:

Plaintiff could receive $70, 000 in compensatory damages and a transfer to either the 2nd or 7th Police Districts within ninety (90) days, in exchange for relinquishing her right to pursue her FOP arbitration.

Each party was instructed to contact the court on July 24, 2013, before 4:00 p.m., with an answer regarding the higher proposed figure to release Plaintiff's FOP claim.[3] Further telephonic negotiations, on July 24, 2013, concluded when counsel for all parties agreed that:

Plaintiff would receive $65, 000 in compensatory damages and a transfer to either the 2nd or 7th Police Districts, in exchange for relinquishing her right to pursue her FOP arbitration.[4]

Accordingly, on July 25, 2013, the undersigned judge entered an Order marking the case "SETTLED" and "CLOSED" for statistical purposes, while specifically retaining jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the negotiated Settlement Agreement. See July 25, 2013 Order, (Doc. No. 63). Defense Counsel promptly reduced the settlement terms in a General Release and Settlement Agreement. On September 5, 2013, after the court through a joint telephone conference with the parties, resolved a language issue regarding the General Release and Settlement Agreement, these documents were finalized and emailed to Plaintiff's counsel. See September 5, 2013 Telephone Conference Minute Entry, (Doc. No. 64).

On September 10, 2013, Plaintiff's counsel emailed the finalized General Release and Settlement Agreement to Plaintiff and instructed her to sign, notarize and return the document or, in the alternative, to provide date(s) and time(s) she would be available for a telephone conference with the court. See Counsels' Motions for Appointment of Receivership at 4, (Doc. Nos. 65 and 66). On September 23, 2013, Plaintiff's counsel sent a second email informing her that, unless she responded to their prior communication regarding signing the General Release and Settlement Agreement or the telephone conference, they would file an appropriate motion with this court. See id.

On September 25, 2013, Plaintiff, via email, informed her attorney that she would neither sign the General Release and Settlement Agreement nor authorize her counsel to execute the essential documents on her. See id. Accordingly, on September 27, 2013 and September 30, 2013, each of Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion for appointment of receivership, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 66, to allow them to execute the documents necessary to conclude the settlement. Id.

On November 12, 2013, the undersigned conducted a Rule to Show Cause Hearing concerning Plaintiff's counsels's motions. See Tr. 11/12/13 at 1-47. Upon review of the transcript of that hearing, the draft of the General Release and Settlement Agreement, and the undersigned's contemporaneous notes and recollection of what transpired on July 18, 2013 and July 24, 2013, this court finds that the parties, as a matter of fact and law, settled this lawsuit on July 24, 2013. For reasons that follow, Plaintiff's ...


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