United States District Court, D. Maine
ALAN J. PERRY, et al., Plaintiffs
PETER TINKHAM, et al., Defendants PETER TINKHAM, et al., Plaintiffs
LAURA PERRY, et al., Defendants
DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO
ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AND FOR SANCTIONS, AND DEFENDANTS'
MOTION FOR JUDICIAL AID IN SETTLEMENT
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
the Court denied the parties' motions for sanctions
(Decision and Order, ECF No. 238), which motions focused on
the terms by which the parties agreed to settle this case,
Defendants filed a Motion for Judicial Aid in Settlement (ECF
No. 239),  and Plaintiffs' filed a Motion to
Enforce Settlement Agreement and for Sanctions. (ECF No.
241.) The parties' motions again focus on the status of
and terms of the parties' settlement.
consideration of the parties' filings and following a
review of the record, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion
to enforce the settlement agreement, grants in part
Plaintiff's motion for sanctions, and denies
Defendants' motion for judicial aid in
Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Settlement
to the parties' motions for sanctions (ECF Nos. 202, 203)
was whether the parties' reached a binding agreement to
resolve this matter. Because the parties' motions
revealed certain factual disputes as to whether the parties
reached a binding settlement, as set forth in the Decision
and Order on the motions for sanctions (Decision and Order,
ECF No. 238), the Court scheduled an evidentiary hearing on
the motions. In its order scheduling the hearing, the
Court noted that the evidentiary hearing would “include
the issue of whether the parties reached a binding settlement
agreement” and that “the parties should be
prepared to address all issues raised by the motions for
sanctions, including whether, if the Court were to determine
that the parties reached a binding settlement, the Court
should enforce the settlement agreement.” (Procedural
Order, ECF No. 207.)
Court conducted the evidentiary hearing on October 27,
2017. Following the hearing, the Court made
certain factual findings and concluded that “on or
about July 26, 2017, the parties reached a valid, binding
agreement to resolve their claims against each other and
conclude this matter.” (Decision and Order at 11.) The
Court further found:
The material terms of the parties' agreement consist of
the following: a payment of $80, 000 to Defendants and a
payment of $80, 000 to Plaintiffs; Plaintiff Laura Perry
would own the cottage in Weld, Maine, which cottage is the
subject of the litigation; the receipt by Defendants of
information regarding the circumstances of the death of
Auburn Perry, Sr., Defendant Juliet Alexander's father;
the return to Defendants of certain items given by Samantha
Tinkham to Auburn Perry, Sr., her grandfather; mutual release
of all claims; and the Defendants' release of any claims
they might have against the Estate of Auburn Perry Sr., and
the Estate of Laura Perry upon her passing.
(Id. at 11-12.)
Court, however, did not order the enforcement of the
agreement because Plaintiffs' had not requested
enforcement. Instead, Plaintiffs requested the dismissal of
Defendant Tinkham's claim and the entry of a default on
Plaintiffs' claims, which requests the Court denied.
Plaintiffs now seek enforcement of the settlement agreement.
may seek to enforce a settlement agreement by motion before
the underlying matter is dismissed. Roman-Oliveras v.
Puerto Rico Elec. Power Auth., 797 F.3d 83, 86 (1st Cir.
2015) (federal district court with subject matter
jurisdiction over a dispute may enforce settlement prior to
dismissal of the suit); Malave v. Carney Hosp., 170
F.3d 217, 220 (1st Cir. 1999) (“A party to a settlement
agreement may seek to enforce the agreement's terms when
the other party reneges.”). “The trial court may
summarily enforce the agreement, provided there is no
genuinely disputed question of material fact regarding the
existence or terms of that agreement.” Fidelity and
Guar. Ins. Co. v. Star Equip. Corp., 541 F.3d 1, 5 (1st
Cir. 2008). In the event of a disputed material fact, the
court must conduct an evidentiary hearing. Id.
case, while the parties' earlier filings revealed
material facts in dispute that required an evidentiary
hearing, no material facts remain in dispute following the
Court's findings after the evidentiary hearing. The Court
incorporates herein the findings set forth in the Decision
and Order (ECF No. 238). Based on the findings and the
current record, the Court can and will order the enforcement
of the settlement without further hearing.
Defendants' Motion for Judicial Aid in
their Motion for Judicial Aid in Settlement (ECF No. 239),
Defendants ask the Court to enforce a settlement on terms
other than as found by the Court after the evidentiary
hearing. Because the relief Defendants seek is unsupported by
the record, Defendants' motion fails.
Plaintiffs' Motion for Sanctions
request the Court sanction Defendants by awarding Plaintiffs
the fees Plaintiffs incurred after the parties agreed to
settle the matter. More specifically, Plaintiffs ask the
Court to award all fees incurred “since the end of
July.” (Motion at 6.) In support of the motion,
Plaintiffs maintain that Defendants not only failed to honor
the parties' agreement to settle, but also engaged in
egregious misconduct throughout the course of the litigation.
(Id. at 7.) Plaintiffs request that the award be
paid out of the funds that would be paid to Defendants under
the settlement agreement, and that the award include fees and
costs that may yet be incurred given Defendants' history
of filing unproductive motions and appeals. (Id. at
8 - 9.)
Court has both contempt power and inherent power to sanction
a party for unacceptable conduct in the course of litigation.
“A district court's authority to issue a contempt
order derives from its inherent power to ‘sanction ...
litigation abuses which threaten to impugn the district
court's integrity or disrupt its efficient management of
[case] proceedings.'” AngioDynamics,
Inc. v. Biolitec AG, 780 F.3d 420, 426 (1st Cir.
2015) (alterations in original) (quoting United States v.
Kouri-Perez, 187 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 1999)).
Furthermore, the Court may issue sanctions pursuant to its
inherent authority to vindicate judicial authority, without
resorting to the exercise of its contempt powers. In re
Charbono, 790 F.3d 80, 85 (1st Cir. 2015).
may award sanctions upon finding that a party has
“acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for
oppressive reasons.” Chambers v. Nesco,
Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 45-46 (1991) (quoting Alyeska
Pipeline Serv. Co. v. Wilderness Soc., 421 U.S. 240,
258- 59 (1975)). Because of its potency, “a court's
inherent power to shift attorneys' fees ‘should be
used sparingly and reserved for egregious
circumstances.'” Whitney Bros. Co. v.
Sprafkin, 60 F.3d 8, 13 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting
Jones v. Winnepesaukee Realty, 990 F.2d 1, 3 (1st
Cir. 1993)). A district court exercising this power
“must describe the bad faith conduct with
‘sufficient specificity, ' ...