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Ismail v. DS Smith Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 19, 2019



          SCHMEHL, J.

         Plaintiff brought this action, claiming his four-month period of employment was terminated by the Defendant because of his religion (Muslim) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.[1] The Court referred this matter to United States Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin for the purpose of conducting a settlement conference. On April 3, 2019, the Magistrate Judge conducted a settlement conference, at the conclusion of which the parties reached a settlement. The Magistrate Judge put the settlement agreement on the record and questioned the Plaintiff concerning the terms and conditions of the settlement. The Magistrate Judge then issued an Order under Rule 41.1(b) dismissing the case with prejudice, but retaining jurisdiction for a period of 90 days from that date for purposes of enforcing the settlement.

         After Plaintiff refused to sign a written version of the settlement agreement that was drafted by Defense counsel and approved by Plaintiff's counsel, counsel for the Plaintiff and counsel for Defendant made a joint request by letter that the terms of the settlement agreement be enforced. [ECF 30.] On June 3, 2019, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing on Counsel's joint request to enforce the settlement agreement. On June 19, 2019, Magistrate Judge Perkin issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that “the settlement agreement . . . be enforced upon its terms whether the plaintiff signs the agreement or continues to refuse to do so.” [ECF 36, p. 9.] On July 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed a pro se Notice of Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report. [ECF 40.] On November 22, 2019[2], the Court held an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiff's Objections. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Objections and adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation in its entirety.

         When objections to a report and recommendation have been filed under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the district court must make a de novo review of those portions of the report to which specific objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989). “District Courts, however, are not required to make any separate findings or conclusions when reviewing a Magistrate Judge's recommendation de novo under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).” Hill v. Barnacle, 655 F. App'x. 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2016). The “court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations” contained in the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         In His Notice of Objection, Plaintiff contends that the settlement agreement should be voided because he never signed the written agreement and because he was not fully advised by his counsel prior to entering into the agreement as to the full amount of damages he was eligible to recover if he was victorious at trial “such as salary difference, psychiatrist expenses, medication expenses, relocation expenses, job search etc (which make up more than 75% of the financial losses incurred by Mr. Ismail)” as well as counsel fees. [ECF 40.] Indeed, Plaintiff has attached to his Objection a copy of an email he sent to his former counsel three hours after he left the courthouse on April 3, 2019 that memorializes his concerns. Apparently, Plaintiff's counsel did not respond to this email. Plaintiff raised these same concerns during his testimony before this Court on November 22, 2019.

         During the settlement hearing on April 3, 2019, the following exchange took place:

THE COURT: The settlement amount is $50, 000, inclusive of all claims for counsel fees and costs, all in. That's the number for all of those claims. Am I correct, Mr. Kolman?
MR. KOLMAN: Yes, you are, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. And Ms. Kaye, am I correct as well?
MS. KAYE: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: All right. Let me inquire of Mr. Ismail. Thank you for being here. You and I have spent some time together today, and I appreciate your assistance and your openness. Do you understand that once this sum is paid, that will be all the money that you can obtain from the Defendants, and each one of them in this case, this will release all claims against all of them; do you understand that, sir?
THE COURT: Do you understand that you will not be able to go back and sue them for not only the claims you've raised in this case, but any claims that you may not have raised and think you may wish to raise? In other words, a general release will release all those claims that ...

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