United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI. U.S.D.J.:
matter comes before the Court on Trustee Jin Han Kim's
unopposed motion to compel performance, ECF No. 86, and for
other specific relief, ECF No. 99. For the reasons set forth
below, the motion and requested relief are GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART.
underlying facts of this case are set forth in the
court's January 23, 2017 opinion, familiarity with which
is assumed. See ECF No. 43. Since that opinion, the
original plaintiff in this matter, Hanjin Shipping Co.
("Hanjin"), has entered bankruptcy proceedings in
the Republic of Korea ("Korean Bankruptcy"). Taylor
Cert. ¶ 10-11, ECF No. 86-1. Jin Han Kim
("Trustee") was appointed trustee for Hanjin, and
replaced Hanjin as the plaintiff here. Id. ¶
to the uncontroverted evidence before the Court, on June 7,
2018, the defendants collectively agreed to offer Trustee $62,
500 to settle this matter ("Offer"). Id.
¶ 15. Port agreed to pay $45, 000, Asiana $5, 000,
Frontage $7, 500, and HK $5, 000. Id. ¶ 17.
Trustee approved of the Offer but noted the Korean Bankruptcy
Court had final authority. Id. ¶ 15. To obtain
the Korean Bankruptcy Court's approval, Trustee needed a
signed document by all the parties agreeing to the
settlement. Id. ¶ 16. Trustee's attorney
thus prepared a draft settlement agreement and circulated it
to the parties on June 26, 2018. Id. ¶ 18. On
June 29, counsel for all the parties held a telephone
conference with Judge Falk and advised him that the matter
was settled, subject to approval by the Korean Bankruptcy
Court. Id. ¶ 19. Next, the parties'
attorneys collectively revised and approved of a written
settlement agreement ("Stipulation of Settlement").
Id. ¶¶ 19-21.
Asiana, and Frontage signed the Stipulation of Settlement
almost immediately. Id. ¶22. HK did not. On
June 30, 2018, Trustee's counsel followed up with
HK's attorneys regarding HK's failure to execute the
document. Id. ¶ 23. HK's lawyer said
"he was working on it." Id. Trustee's
counsel followed up again in October 2018, at which point
HK's attorneys said, "he had several calls
out." Id. ¶ 25. Trustee followed up again
in December 2018, and learned HK was not responding to
communications from their attorneys. Id. ¶ 32.
date, HK has failed to execute the Stipulation of Settlement.
Id. At the same time, HK has not indicated that it
seeks to revoke its previous agreement to the settlement
terms. Id. ¶¶ 25, 29. But, because HK has
not signed Stipulation of Settlement, Trustee has not been
able to present the settlement to the Korean Bankruptcy Court
for approval. Id.
moves for an order (1) requiring HK to sign the Stipulation
of Settlement within fifteen days and (2) if HK fails to do
so, deem HK "to be bound by the settlement agreement
reached and reported to the Court on June 29, 2018 whereby HK
Techfloor, LLC is to pay $5, 000 to [Trustee]." Proposed
Order at 2 (Mar. 11, 2019), ECF No. 99 ("Proposed
Order"). Trustee's motion and requested relief are
the present motion is styled as a "motion to compel
performance," Trustee is essentially asking the Court to
deem the case settled. "In ongoing litigation, district
courts have the jurisdiction to decide whether the parties
have settled the action." Bryan v. Erie Cty. Office
of Children & Youth, 752 F.3d 316, 323 (3d Cir.
2014). This matter is ongoing. See Order (June 29,
2018), ECF No. 77; Order (Feb. 7, 2019), ECF No. 85.
Therefore, the Court has jurisdiction to decide whether the
parties settled. However, that does not mean the Court has
the authority to provide the specific relief requested by
part, Trustee requests an order compelling HK to physically
sign the Stipulation of Settlement. Proposed Order at 2.
Trustee cites no authority giving federal district courts the
power to order such relief. Therefore, Trustee's request
for an order that "HK Techfloor, LLC shall sign the
Stipulation of Settlement" is DENIED.
The Court does, however, have jurisdiction to
determine if the Stipulation of Settlement accurately
reflects the parties' agreement, and thus is binding on
HK regardless of its signature. See Williams v. Newark
Beth Israel Med. Ctr., 06-cv-1649, 2008 WL 11425678, at
*2 (D.N.J. Apr. 7, 2008), aff'd, 322 Fed.Appx.
111 (3d Cir. 2009) ("[C]ourts will look to give effect
to the terms of a settlement wherever possible, absent a
showing of fraud or some other compelling
circumstance."); see also Bryan, 752 F.3d at
determine if the Trustee is entitled to an order deeming HK
bound by the terms of the Stipulation of Settlement,
See Proposed Order at 2, the Court must determine if
the parties actually settled. Settlement agreements are
simply a form of contract governed by state ...