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Garcia v. Stellar Recovery Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

July 27, 2017

DINA GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
STELLAR RECOVERY INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT [Re: ECF 32]

          BETH LAB SON FREEMAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Dina Garcia (“Garcia”) filed this putative class action against Defendant Stellar Recovery Inc. (“Stellar”), asserting violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq.; violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.; and violations of California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Cal. Civ. Code 1788 et seq. Compl., ECF 1. Garcia and Stellar thereafter reached settlement with respect to Garcia's individual claims. Settlement Agreement, Exh. A to Smith Decl., ECF 32-1. No motion for class certification was filed, and no class was certified in this case.

         Under the Settlement Agreement, Stellar was to make three payments to Garcia, the first on April 10, 2017, the second on May 10, 2017, and the third on June 10, 2017. Smith Decl. ¶ 4 and Exh. A., ECF 32-1. On April 28, 2017, Garcia filed the present motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement, asserting that Stellar had not made the first payment. Motion, ECF 32. Garcia sought an order enforcing the Settlement Agreement and awarding attorneys' fees and costs that Garcia incurred in bringing the motion to enforce. Id.

         By the date of the hearing on July 6, 2017, all three payments had been made. The first payment, which was due on April 10, 2017, was paid on May 1, 2017. Pratt Decl. ¶ 4, ECF 42-1. The second payment, which was due on May 10, 2017, was timely made on that date. Id. ¶ 5. The third payment, which was due on June 10, 2017, was made on June 28, 2017. Id. ¶ 6. Accordingly, the only issue left for the Court to resolve is Garcia's request for attorneys' fees and costs.

         “An agreement to settle a legal dispute is a contract and its enforceability is governed by familiar principles of contract law.” Jeff D. v. Andrus, 899 F.2d 753, 759 (9th Cir. 1989). “The construction and enforcement of settlement agreements are governed by principles of local law which apply to interpretation of contracts generally.” Id. “Under California Civil Code § 1717, the prevailing party in a dispute over a contract that specifically provides for fee awards shall be entitled to reasonable attorney's fees as determined by the court.” Eksouzian v. Albanese, No. CV 13-728 PSG (AJWX), 2015 WL 12765585, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2015).

The Settlement Agreement provides in relevant part as follows:
If any installment payment is not timely received, Plaintiff's attorneys shall provide written notice of the delinquency to Defendant's attorney via e-mail. In the event Defendant's delinquency is not cured within 5 business days following its attorney's receipt of notice, then Plaintiff shall be entitled to attorney's fees and costs relating to any effort to enforce the Agreement.

Settlement Agreement ¶ 1, Exh. A to Smith Decl., ECF 32-1. Garcia presents evidence that her attorney provided email notification of delinquency to Stellar's attorney on April 12, 2017. Emails, Exh. B to Smith Decl., ECF 32-1. Counsel corresponded by email regarding the delinquent payment through April 25, 2017, when Garcia's counsel stated that he was preparing a motion to enforce settlement. Id. Garcia thereafter filed the present motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement. Accordingly, under the clear language of the contract and California law, Garcia is entitled to recover attorneys' fees and costs incurred in litigating her motion to enforce.

         Stellar does not dispute that the email correspondence between the parties' counsel satisfied the notice requirement set forth in the Settlement Agreement, or that the Settlement Agreement provides for recovery of attorneys' fees and costs. Stellar instead appears to argue that because Garcia's counsel was informed that Stellar had “cash flow challenges” and was trying to gather the monies owed Garcia, Garcia should have refrained from enforcing her rights to the full extent permitted under the Settlement Agreement and applicable law. Sur-Reply at 1, ECF 42. To the extent that Stellar seeks to be relieved from its contractual obligations under the Settlement Agreement on equitable grounds, it has cited no legal authority which would permit the Court to grant such relief even if it were so inclined.

         Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

(1) Garcia's motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement is GRANTED. While Stellar has transmitted all payments due, Garcia is entitled to recover attorneys' fees and costs incurred in litigating her motion to enforce.
(2) The parties SHALL meet and confer regarding the amount of attorneys' fees and costs that should be awarded;
(3) If the parties are unable to resolve the issue of attorneys' fees and costs within twenty-one days after the date of this order, Garcia may file a motion for attorneys' fees and costs, not to exceed five pages plus supporting documentation. Stellar may file a response, not to exceed five pages plus supporting documentation, within fourteen days after the filing of such motion. ...

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