United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
IRENE KENDRELL, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ANTHONY KENDRELL, Plaintiff,
JIM MATTIS, SECRETARY OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendant.
F. KELLY, Sr. J.
Irene Kendrell (“Ms. Kendrell”) filed this action
as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Anthony
Kendrell against Defendant Jim Mattis, the Secretary of the
United States Department of Defense
(“Government”) alleging violations of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. §§12101 et seq., ADA Retaliation,
42 U.S.C.A. §12203(a), and the New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination, N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 10:5-12.
around September 21, 2016, Ms. Kendrell filed a Complaint on
behalf the estate of her son, Anthony Kendrell, in the United
States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (Doc.
No. 1.) On January 13, 2017, the case was transferred to this
Court. (Id.) In her Complaint, Ms. Kendrell alleges
that the Government harassed, discriminated, and retaliated
against Anthony Kendrell in violation of the ADA and the New
Jersey Law Against Discrimination. (Compl. ¶¶
33-42.) Ms. Kendrell alleges that, as a result of the
Government's actions, Anthony Kendrell took his own life
on May 23, 2015. (Id. ¶ 30.) A settlement
agreement was reached between the Government and Ms.
Kendrell's attorneys, Mr. Matthew Weisberg (“Mr.
Weisberg”) and Mr. Anthony DiJiacomo (“Mr.
DiJiacomo”), on February 22, 2018. However, Ms.
Kendrell refused to sign it because, in her opinion, it was
“completely different” from what she had
authorized her attorneys to enter. (Tr. 5/15/2018, 6-8.)
April 4, 2018, the Government filed a Motion to Enforce
Settlement Agreement against Ms. Kendrell. This Court entered
an Order dated April 17, 2018 granting the Government's
Motion. On April 19, 2018, Ms. Kendrell filed an Emergency
Motion, pro se, requesting a hearing on the Motion
to Enforce Settlement Agreement. An evidentiary hearing was
held on May 15, 2018, in which testimony was heard from Ms.
Kendrell, Mr. Weisberg, and Mr. DiJiacomo.
issue presently before the Court is whether the parties
entered into a valid settlement agreement. After hearing the
testimony and considering the evidence presented, the Court
makes the following findings of fact.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Kendrell, in her capacity as the personal representative of
the Estate of Anthony Kendrell, was represented by Mr.
Weisberg and Mr. DiJiacomo in a lawsuit against the
Government. Tr. 5/15/2018, 5-6, 11, 13.
Settlement negotiations began in October 2017. Id.
at 6, 14-15. Mr. DiJiacomo asked Ms. Kendrell what she was
willing to accept to settle the case. Ms. Kendrell said that
given a choice between monetary compensation or injunctive
relief, she would choose injunctive relief. Id.
injunctive relief, or “changes, ” that Ms.
Kendrell wanted included requiring the Government to put up
signs detailing the rights of employees with disabilities, as
well as provide reasonable accommodations where required
under the ADA. Id. at 7.
DiJiacomo confirmed the settlement parameters with Ms.
Kendrell in an email dated October 17, 2017. Id.
15-16; Gov't Ex. 1. The email stated,
[Y]ou provided us authorization to settle this matter, to
obtain the best possible settlement in our professional
judgment that would include a provision requiring [the
Government] to publicize at its offices (as an appropriate
signage) that individuals with mental health disabilities
have a right to accommodations along with contact information
for the appropriate office, and that would also compensate us
for our attorney fees.
Tr. 5/15/2018, 16; Gov't Ex. 1.
DiJiacomo opened settlement discussions with the Government
by sending an email to opposing counsel, Assistant United
States Attorney Scott Reid (“AUSA Reid”), on
October 18, 2017, detailing Ms. Kendrell's framework. Tr.
5/15/2018, 18-20; Gov't Ex. 2.
DiJiacomo had a subsequent phone call with Ms. Kendrell where
she confirmed authorization to settle the matter and
mentioned an additional interest in contacting the Office of
Personnel Management (“OPM”) to request that they
investigate why her son had not received reasonable
accommodations themselves. Tr. 5/15/2018, 23. Following this
phone call, Mr. DiJiacomo confirmed, in an email dated
November 13, 2017, that Ms. Kendrell had provided
“authorization to settle this matter with [the
Government] in exchange for $5, 000 in attorney's fees
and [the Government] placing signs throughout its offices
clearly stating that employees with mental health
disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations,
along with appropriate information for assistance.”
Gov't Ex. 4, at 1. The email also included a reference to
Ms. Kendrell's desire to pursue information regarding the
Government's failure to provide reasonable accommodations
to her son through OPM. Id.
Kendrell emailed Mr. DiJiacomo on November 18, 2017 regarding
a proposed settlement offer:
I don't understand how this happened. When you asked me
if I would accept $25, 000 or changes, of the two, I said
changes. However, after giving it a little thought, I
text[ed] you and said why not both? Then I researched more
and found out more information. So no, I will only accept
this if I don't have another choice. . . . If I have to
accept this offer, can I remove the complaint and refile a
new one? This offer doesn't do anything. By law they had
to already have this information given to [persons] with
disabilit[ies]. So they aren't being held accountable for
their illegal actions that destroyed my son.
Tr. 5/15/2018, 26; Gov't Ex. 4, at 2.
8. In a
subsequent email dated November 20, 2017, Ms. Kendrell
refused a request to schedule a phone call with Mr. DiJiacomo
on the grounds that she “totally disagree[d] with [his]
offer” and that she would no longer work with him. Tr.
5/15/2018, 27-28; Gov't Ex. 4, at 3.
DiJiacomo forwarded Ms. Kendrell's email to Mr. Weisberg.
Tr. 5/15/2018, 27-28. Mr. Weisberg scheduled an in-person
meeting with Ms. Kendrell. Id. at 28-29. Mr.
DiJiacomo did not communicate with Ms. Kendrell again until
February 2018. Id. at 31.
February 22, 2018, Mr. Weisberg sent Ms. Kendrell an email
asking for her authority to withdraw her claim in her
separate legal malpractice matter that Weisberg Law was
handling on her behalf and her authority to settle this
present case against the Government “for whatever [they
could] get.” Id. at 45. It was Mr.
Weisberg's opinion that neither of her cases would
produce a favorable result. Id.; Gov't Ex. 6, at
Kendrell replied, “That's fine . . . . That's
the main thing [I] always wanted[, for] them [to be held]
accountable for the lack of [reasonable accommodations given
to Anthony Kendrell]. [I] will pursue it through OPM as soon
as [you] tell me [I] can.” Tr. 5/15/18; 46; Gov't
Ex. 6, at 1. A brief email exchange ensued where Ms. Kendrell
asked Mr. Weisberg for a “box of information”
[containing discovery conducted thus far in ...