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Hardin v. Mendocino Coast District Hospital

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 20, 2019

ELLEN HARDIN, Plaintiff,
v.
MENDOCINO COAST DISTRICT HOSPITAL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT RE: ECF NO. 295

          JON S. TIGAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Ellen Hardin's motion to enforce settlement agreement. ECF No. 295. As discussed below, the Court concludes that the parties have an enforceable settlement agreement, but that the terms of the agreement are contrary to the position set forth in Hardin's motion. The Court will therefore grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Ellen Hardin brings this employment case, including allegations of retaliation under the federal False Claims Act, against her former employer, Mendocino Coast District Hospital (“MCDH”). She has also named the following individuals as defendants: Bob Edwards, MCDH's chief executive officer; Steve Lund, the president of MCDH's board of directors; and Wade Sturgeon, MCDH's chief financial officer.

         The parties attended a mediation session with a private mediator, Lynn Frank, on September 22, 2019. ECF No. 295 at 10; ECF No. 313-1 ¶ 2; ECF No. 313-2 ¶ 2. The mediator circulated a mediator's proposal on September 23, 2019.[1] ECF No. 313-3; ECF No. 312 ¶ 3. Among other terms, the proposal stated that:

1. Defendant shall pay to Plaintiff the sum of $2, 750, 000.
. . .
3. The payment will be made for personal injury damages to attorney Twila White's Client Trust Account pursuant to a Form 1099. Plaintiff or plaintiff's attorney reserve the option to structure all or a portion of the settlement proceeds and defendant shall coordinate with [a] structured annuity planner with respect to ensuring proper IRS language is included in the release and assignment not to void using a structured settlement.

ECF No. 313-3 at 2 (emphasis added). The remaining terms are not in dispute.

         On September 27, 2019, Defendants and their counsel signed a revised memorandum of understanding that they sent to the mediator. ECF No. 313-1 ¶ 6; ECF No. 313-2 ¶ 4; ECF No. 313-4. The MOU revised paragraphs 1 and 3 as follows:

1. MCDH and/or its insurer, BETA Healthcare Group, a California joint powers agreement (hereinafter “BETA”) shall pay to Plaintiff the sum of $2, 750, 000.00 (“Settlement Sum”).
. . .
3. The Settlement Sum will be paid by check made payable to “Ellen Hardin and the Trust Account of the Law Office of Twila S. White.” Appropriate IRS Forms 1099 shall be issued[.] Plaintiff reserves the option to structure all or a portion of the settlement proceeds into an annuity.

ECF No. 313-4 at 2-3. Notably, Defendants did not include in the revised MOU any reference to their coordination with a structured annuity planner or any other obligations with ...


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