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Bucciarelli v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 2, 2016

RACHELE M. BUCCIARELLI Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, ET AL., Defendants.

          Nancy G. Edmunds, District Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          HON. R. STEVEN WHALEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is, at its core, a mortgage foreclosure case. Plaintiff Rachele M. Bucciarelli appears without counsel. Before the Court is Defendant Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, L.P.'s (“Countrywide's”) Motion to Enforce Settlement [Doc. #36].[1] For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be DENIED.

         I. FACTS

         On April 13, 2016, counsel for Defendant Countrywide sent Plaintiff a letter offering to settle the case against it for $500.00.[2] Countrywide proposed the following terms:

“In the interest of concluding this litigation, my client has authorized me to offer you $500.00 in settlement of your purported claims against Countrywide. In return, you will agree to execute the Countrywide's standard Settlement Agreement and Release containing confidentiality and no-disparagement terms, as well as provide a W-9, before payment will issue. In addition, you will file a dismissal of all claims with prejudice as to Countrywide.”

         Countrywide has submitted as Exhibit B a transcript of a voice mail message purportedly left by Ms. Bucciarelli on April 29, 2016 at 3:43 p.m., which states:

“Hey Ms. Wallace this is Rochelle but really responding to your letter dated April 13 I just got it. I don't know where it stands but I got it couple days ago regarding the settlement offer of $500 from countrywide. We can go ahead and do that. So if you wanna give me a call back. My number is. I do have a lot of mistakes in the countrywide financial ere (?) Of those funds that were applied and miss applied to my account but my main focus is wells Fargo who purchased the loans from countrywide after countrywide made some substantial mistakes. Give me a call back. Mary. Thanks bye.”

         On May 17, 2016, Countrywide's counsel sent Plaintiff a proposed written settlement agreement containing the terms as set forth in its letter of April 13, 2016.[3]Counsel states in Defendant's motion that on May 27, 2016, she spoke to Plaintiff on the telephone, at which time Plaintiff stated that she misread the April 13 letter and thought that she was offered $5, 000.00 rather than $500.00 dollars. Counsel states that between June 6 and June 14, 2016, she followed up with telephone calls to the Plaintiff, and that June 17, Plaintiff called her and agreed to the $500.00 settlement. Nevertheless, states Countrywide's counsel, Plaintiff has not to date executed the settlement agreement.

         In her response [Doc. #38], at ¶ 5, Plaintiff states that “it is clearly premature for the Defendants to waste the court's time with such a motion prior to discovery of this claim, merely based on a telephone call between the Plaintiff and Defendants and a brief discussion of an offer to settle. Does not constitute an agreement to settle or is an admission of agreement.”

         II. LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         This Court has the equitable power to enforce a settlement agreement, Brock v. Scheuner Corp., 841 F.2d 151, 154 (6th Cir.1988), but that remedy is restricted to cases where there is no dispute or ambiguity as to either the entry into, or the terms of the agreement. Kukla v. National Distillers Products Co., 483 F.2d 619, 621 (6th Cir.1973). Indeed, “summary proceedings may result in inequities when ... such a dispute does exist.” Id. Thus, "[b]efore enforcing settlement, the district court must conclude that agreement has been reached on all material terms." Brock, 841 F.2d at 154. See also Therma-Scan, Inc. v. Thermoscan, Inc., 217 F.3d 414, 419 -420 (6th Cir. 2000). An oral agreement to settle may be enforceable, but only when “parties have agreed on the essential terms of a settlement, and all that remains is to memorialize the agreement in writing....” Re/Max International, Inc. V. Realty One, Inc., 271 F.3d 633, 646 (6th Cir. 2001). Even where there is a written memorialization, or where an agreement is placed o the record, however, it may not be enforceable if there is still ambiguity or uncertainty as to the parties' mutual understanding of all material terms. Therma-Scan, supra; Brock, supra. Enforceability of an alleged settlement agreement is analyzed under principles of contract law, and “[p]art of [the] threshold interpretation is the question of whether the terms of the...contract are ambiguous.” Morgan Stanley Group Inc. v. New England Ins. Co., 225 F.3d 270, 275 (2nd Cir. 2000). The grant or denial of a motion to enforce a settlement agreement is entrusted to the court's discretion. Re/Max International, supra.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Countrywide states that it sent Plaintiff a written settlement offer “[a]s is routine in litigation.” Defendant's Motion, at 3. But in determining whether there was a “meeting of the minds” as to all material terms of the proposed agreement, it must be remembered that Ms. Bucciarelli is appearing pro se, ...


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