United States District Court, E.D. California
FAIR HOUSING COUNCIL OF CENTRAL CALIFORNIA, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
TYLAR PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants
For Fair Housing Council of Central California, Inc., Rene McCants, Tawana Pickett, Plaintiffs: Elizabeth Brancart, LEAD ATTORNEY, Christopher Brancart, Brancart and Brancart, Pescadero, CA.
For Tylar Property Management Company, Inc., Melvin Joel Wapner, David Evans, Defendants: Michael S. Helsley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Wanger Jones Helsley PC, Fresno, CA.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AND DISMISS CASE
ANTHONY W. ISHII, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Defendants Tylar Property Management Company, Inc., et al. have filed a motion to enforce settlement and dismiss. For reasons discussed below, the motion shall be denied.
II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On May 14, 2012, plaintiffs Fair Housing Council of Central California, Inc., Rene McCants and Tawana Pickett (hereinafter referred to as " Plaintiffs" ) filed their complaint against defendants Tylar Property Management Company, Inc., Melvin Joel Wapner and David Evans (hereinafter referred to as " Defendants" ) asserting causes of action for violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.; violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code, § 12926 et seq.; unfair business practices in violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq.; negligence; violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code, § 51 et seq.; breach of the implied covenant of quiet use and enjoyment; unlawful entry in violation of California Civil Code § § 1940.2 and 1954; invasion of privacy; and violation of the Ralph Act, Cal. Civ. Code, § 51.7. On October 2, 2012, Defendants filed a motion to enforce settlement and dismiss the case, contending each of the individual plaintiffs had entered into a valid and enforceable agreement with Defendants to settle the case outside the presence of the Court. On October 30, 2012, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to Defendants' motion to enforce settlement and dismiss, contending enforcement of the agreements would be contrary to public policy and, public policy notwithstanding, the releases of their claims were not voluntary, deliberate and informed.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
" [I]t is [ ] well settled in the usual litigation context that courts have inherent power summarily to enforce a settlement agreement with respect to an action pending before it[.]" Dacanay v. Mendoza, 573 F.2d 1075, 1078 (9th Cir. 1978) (citations omitted). " [A] motion to enforce [a] settlement agreement essentially is an action to specifically enforce a contract," and " '[a]n action for specific performance without a claim for damages is purely equitable and
historically has always been tried to the court.' " Adams v. Johns-Manville Corp., 876 F.2d 702, 709 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal citations omitted). Accordingly, the court may hear evidence and make factual determinations. See Stewart v. M.D.F., Inc., 83 F.3d 247, 251 (8th Cir. 1996). " [I]f an agreement for complete settlement of the underlying litigation, or part of it, has been reached and its terms and conditions can be determined, the court may enforce the agreement summarily as long as the excuse for nonperformance of the agreement is comparatively insubstantial." Hensley v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc., 277 F.3d 535 (4th Cir. 2002) (internal citations, quotations omitted). " The power of a trial court to enter a judgment enforcing a settlement agreement has its basis in the policy favoring the settlement of disputes and the avoidance of costly and time-consuming litigation; " this power " has been upheld even where the agreement has not been arrived at in the presence of the court nor reduced to writing." Kukla v. National Distillers Products Co., 483 F.2d 619, 621 (6th Cir. 1973) (citations omitted).
Defendants have submitted as evidence signed copies of the two settlement agreements and general releases entered into between Defendants and Rene McCants and Defendants and Tawana Pickett. The agreements provide in pertinent part that as consideration for the agreements, Defendants agree to tender to McCants and Pickett gross amounts of $5,000.00 and $15,000.00, respectively. In exchange, Plaintiffs agree to release and discharge Defendants from liability under, but not limited to, the claims alleged in their complaint. The agreements further state they shall constitute a final settlement of all claims arising out of the parties' dispute. Defendants contend -- and Plaintiffs concede -- that Plaintiffs executed the agreements. Defendants have also submitted copies of two receipts showing the abovementioned payments were made to Plaintiffs. ...