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Lisa And Steven Urbanski v. Bayada Home Health Care

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 19, 2017



          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Settlement. (Doc. 19.) For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs commenced this action on April 16, 2014 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.) Lisa and Steven Urbanski are the parents of J.U., a minor diagnosed with Partial Trisomy 16, which renders J.U. largely non-verbal. The Amended Complaint (Doc. 3) raises claims for damages stemming from the employment of Kyoni Nieves by Defendant Bayada Home Health Care (“Bayada”). According to the Amended Complaint, Ms. Nieves was an aide to J.U. for a period of time in 2012 and 2013, during which she accompanied J.U. to school and, among other things, assisted J.U. in the restroom. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.) On January 21, 2014, Ms. Nieves was indicted for, inter alia, Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking of Children by Force and Coercion, as well as other related charges. (Id. ¶ 20.) On June 14, 2014, Defendant filed a Rule 12(b) motion which, inter alia, challenged venue. (Doc. 8.) On June 30, 2014, the district court granted Defendant's motion in part, and the case was transferred to this Court. (Doc. 12.) On April 22, 2015, the Court granted Defendant's Rule 12(b) motion in part, dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for negligent hiring in Count II, but allowing the remaining claims to proceed. (Doc. 17.)

         Thereafter, the parties engaged in limited discovery and began settlement discussions. (See Ex. B., Doc. 22.) On May 18, 2016, Plaintiffs, through their attorney Aaron Freiwald and paralegal Laura Laughlin, [1] advised Joann Drust, counsel for Defendant, that their settlement demand was $100, 000. On May 31, 2016, Drust sent a letter to Laughlin inquiring into the medical records relating to Plaintiff Lisa Urbanski's two visits to the emergency room in April 2014 and requesting documents supporting any financial loss alleged in connection with these visits. At some point thereafter, it appears the parties engaged in additional settlement discussions, with Plaintiffs reducing their demand to $75, 000 and Defendant offering $15, 000, as indicated in Drust's September 20, 2016 email to Friewald.

         In that same September 20, 2016 email, Drust inquired into whether any additional “special damages” supporting the settlement figure demanded by Plaintiffs had been obtained by Friewald. The email noted that Bayada offered to meet with the Urbanskis in person to continue settlement discussions if the parties were “unable to reach a mutually agreeable figure.” A follow-up email from Drust that same day reiterated that Bayada sought evidence of additional damages in order to “get the number higher.” Friewald responded via email that this “is not what we discussed, ” and that Drust had told Friewald she “would go back [to Bayada] and get 35K.” On October 4, 2016, Laughlin emailed Drust in response to Drust's request for additional documentation supporting Plaintiffs' damages. The email included some additional documentation and requested that Drust inform Laughlin about Bayada's position with regards to the $35, 000 settlement payment. On October 17, 2016, Drust replied to Laughlin and stated that Laughlin's email “is not very helpful as it doesn't really reference . . . anything connected to the event raised in the Complaint.” Drust noted that “without more in the nature of any out of pocket or special damages, I will not be able to argue for additional monies towards settlement.” Laughlin responded to Drust's email on October 19, 2016, disagreeing with Drust's characterization of Laughlin's original email and requesting a time to speak over the phone.

         On October 25, 2016, Friewald emailed Drust “following up” on a recent conversation between Drust and Laughlin. Friewald requested Drust to advise whether Bayada “is prepared to make good on our previous conversation and to resolve this case for $35, 000.” Friewald further stated: “If not, we need to resume immediately our discovery in this case. Not hearing from you, we will Notice the depositions immediately and will involve the court as needed to secure the discovery we need to prepare this case for trial.” On October 26, 2016, Drust responded to Friewald's email, stating: “At this point, it seems that we have no choice but to proceed with mediation through the Court as agreed.” Drust indicated again that she needed something “more in the way of actual damages” to present to Bayada, and that the documentation supplied thus far was “simply not enough.” On the same day, Drust also emailed Laughlin, agreeing that a phone call “would be a good idea.” (Ex. C., Doc. 22.) Drust noted that she had a meeting with Bayada scheduled for mid-November, but wanted “to schedule something [with Plaintiffs' counsel] before then.”

         Settlement discussions between counsel broke down thereafter. On November 3, 2016, Friewald emailed Drust after Drust apparently cancelled a conference call and had yet to reschedule. (Ex. C.) The email stated:

We were to have a conference call on Tuesday. You [Drust] could not be available despite the fact that we had confirmed the date and time. I [Friewald] had to be the one to call your office to find out you would not be participating.
I was told you would call yesterday to reschedule. That did not happen.
I think at this point I have a right to be irritated.
Moreover, you are dragging your feet here. This case should have been settled months ago, based on our prior conversations.
This has become ridiculous and insulting and downright rude.
I am preparing Notices of Deposition for all of the Bayada witnesses we intend to take testimony from, since you apparently cannot get ...

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