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Carey Chen v. Cayman Arts

January 11, 2012

CAREY CHEN, PLAINTIFF/COUNTER-DEFENDANT,
v.
CAYMAN ARTS, INC., A FLORIDA CORPORATION AND SCOTT R. STEELE, AN INDIVIDUAL, DEFENDANT/COUNTER-PLAINTIFF,
v.
FISHER BLUE WATER GALLERIES, LLC, ET AL., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS.



ORDER DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE AND VACATE THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Scott R. Steele's "Motion to Strike and Vacate the Alleged Settlement Agreement and the Stipulation of Dismissal and to Further Stay Enforcement of the Alleged Settlement Agreement" [DE 227]. The Court has considered the Motion, Plaintiff Carey Chen's Response [DE 233], and the related filings, and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. Mr. Steele has not filed a Reply, and the time for doing so has passed.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 12, 2010, Plaintiff Carey Chen filed this action. Complaint [DE 1]. He brought a variety of claims relating to his employment with Defendants Cayman Arts, Inc. ("Cayman Arts") and Cayman Arts' President and Chief Executive Officer, Scott R. Steele. See Amended Complaint [DE 22]. On August 30, 2010, Cayman Arts filed a Counterclaim [DE 51 at 1-15] against Mr. Chen and a Third-Party Complaint [DE 51 at 16-27] against the Third-Party Defendants Fisher Blue Water Galleries, LLC, Monique Comfort, and Gray Ingram (collectively, "Third-Party Defendants").

On September 15, 2011, the day that trial was set to begin, the parties announced in open Court that they had settled this litigation. See Status Report Order [DE 205]. Per the terms of the agreement and the representations made in open Court, Mr. Chen and Cayman Arts, through their counsel, were to file and serve paperwork dismissing the entire litigation with prejudice. Id. at 1. On September 28, 2011, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation for Dismissal with Prejudice [DE 208] and Motion for Order Approving Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice [DE 207]. The same day, the Court entered an Amended Order of Dismissal with Prejudice [DE 210], approving the Joint Stipulation for Dismissal and closing the case.

II. MOTION TO STRIKE

On or about December 9, 2011, Mr. Steele, acting pro se, filed the instant "Motion to Strike and Vacate the Alleged Settlement Agreement and the Stipulation of Dismissal and to Further Stay Enforcement of the Alleged Settlement Agreement." In his Motion, Mr. Steele argues that the Settlement Agreement is void and unenforceable because "Steele and Cayman were misled by Plaintiff/Counter Defendant's counsel that all parties had agreed to execute the alleged Settlement Agreement as represented and Steele was never informed that the Third-Party Defendants had not in fact executed the Settlement Agreement the next day prior to the scheduled hearing before the Court as agreed upon and a material inducement to Steele to consider and execute same." Mot. at 4. Additionally, Mr. Steele argues that, during discovery, Mr. Chen concealed evidence that would have supported Cayman Arts' and/or Steele's defenses and claims. Id. at 5.*fn1 Therefore, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), Mr. Steele requests that the Court strike the parties' Settlement Agreement, vacate its Amended Order of Dismissal with Prejudice, stay any enforcement of the Settlement Agreement, hold an evidentiary hearing, and reset this case for trial. See Mot. at 2.

Rule 60(b) provides the following grounds for relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;

(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b);

(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;

(4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or

(6) any other reason that justifies relief.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Mr. Steele requests relief under parts (1), (2), (3), (4), and (6). See Mot. at 9.

In support of his Motion, Mr. Steele argues first, that the Court entered its Amended Order of Dismissal with Prejudice by mistake. Mot. at 10 ¶ 1. The Court assures Mr. Steele that the Order was not entered by mistake. Rather, as the Order itself states, the Court entered the Order after consideration of the applicable filings and the entire record in this case. See Amended Order of Dismissal with Prejudice at 1.

Second, Mr. Steele argues that the Settlement Agreement is void and unenforceable because the Third-Party Defendants never signed the agreement. Mot. at 10 ¶¶ 2, 5. He also argues that Mr. Chen's counsel misrepresented that the Settlement Agreement was fully executed. Id. at 10-11 ¶ 6. Mr. Steele is mistaken, as evidenced by the fully executed Settlement Agreement, and the emails concerning the execution of the Settlement Agreement. See Settlement Agreement [DE 233-1]; 9/14/2011 Email [DE 233-2]; 9/21/2011 Email [DE 233-3]. The Settlement Agreement shows that Mr. Chen and Mr. Steele signed the agreement on September 14, 2011, Third-Party Defendant Gray Ingram signed on September 17, 2011, and Third-Party Defendant Monique Comfort, on behalf of herself and Fisher Blue Water Galleries, LLC, signed on September 21, 2011. See id. at 6-7. Though not all parties signed the document the same day, the record shows that all parties had agreed to the Settlement Agreement by 10:59 p.m. on September 14, 2011. See 9/14/2011 Email. One week later, on September 21, 2011, the Third-Party Defendants' counsel emailed Mr. Chen's and Mr. Steele's counsel to inform them that he was in the process of obtaining the final signature that day or the next. See 9/21/2011 Email. Importantly, Mr. Steele suffered no harm or prejudice due to the one-week gap between signatures. Further, the one-week gap did not constitute a breach of any material terms in the Settlement Agreement, and the parties complied with Paragraph 8 of the Settlement Agreement when they filed ...


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