United States District Court, D. New Jersey
DANIELLA GORDON HYLAND LEVIN BARRY J. POLLACK ROBBINS,
RUSSELL, ENGLERT, ORSECK, UNTEREINER & SAUBER LLP On
behalf of Plaintiff
CHARLES GILLESPIE MICHAEL E. SULLIVAN GEORGE M. MORRIS PARKER
MCCAY, PA On behalf of Defendants Francisco Ambrifi and The
Township of Delanco
MICHELLE L. COREA BETSY G. RAMOS CAPEHART AND SCATCHARD, P.A.
LAUREL CORPORATE CENTER On behalf of Defendants John Harris
and Edgewater Township
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case involves claims of excessive force, violations of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, and state law torts
committed by two police officers, as well as claims of
municipal liability against two municipalities for deficient
hiring and training of the officers. Defendants' deny the
of background, at 3:45 a.m. on May 14, 2013, a resident on
Delaware Avenue in Delanco Township, New Jersey called 911 to
report a man on the street running around and screaming about
Jesus. Defendant Francisco Ambrifi, a Delanco Township police
officer, responded to the call and encountered Plaintiff,
Eugene Taylor, a paranoid schizophrenic who was unarmed.
Ambrifi's interaction with Plaintiff resulted in Ambrifi
spraying Plaintiff twice with pepper spray, repeatedly
hitting Plaintiff with his flashlight, and then shooting
Plaintiff three times, with one of the bullets also striking
Ambrifi. The level of use of force and the need for it were
sharply disputed between the parties. Eventually other
officers responded to the scene, including Defendant John
Harris, a police officer with Edgewater Township, who struck
Plaintiff at some point during the incident. The encounter
was witnessed by the 911 caller, her husband, and their
17-year old daughter.
the discovery process was complete, Defendants moved for
summary judgment. On July 11, 2018, this Court denied
Defendants' motions for summary judgment on
Plaintiff's constitutional and ADA claims. Trial was set for
November 5, 2018.
Court held pre-trial conferences on October 11, 2018 and
October 16, 2018, and entered orders resolving numerous
motions in limine. On Thursday, October 25, 2018, the parties
engaged in private mediation. On Friday, October 26, 2018, it
was reported to the Court that the matter had settled. The
Court cancelled the trial scheduled for Monday, November 5,
2018, and administratively terminated the action pending the
scheduling of a settlement approval hearing and the filing of
the parties' dismissal papers.
November 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the
settlement agreement, and on December 3, 2018, Defendants
Ambrifi and the Township of Delanco filed a cross-motion to
enforce the settlement agreement. (Docket No. 280, 282.) On
December 20, 2018, the Court entered an order declining to
consider the motions, and instead directed the parties to
return to the same mediator in efforts to resolve the
dispute. The parties were also instructed to report to the
Court the results of the mediation.
February 1, 2019, Plaintiff informed the Court that mediation
was not successful, and requested that the Court resolve the
parties' pending motions to enforce the settlement. For
the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant the
parties' motions and will now set forth the four corners
of the parties' settlement agreement.
Standard for Motion to Enforce a Settlement
governing the enforcement of a settlement agreement holds
that a settlement agreement between parties to a lawsuit is a
contract like any other contract. Peskin v. Peskin,
638 A.2d 849, 857 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. 1994) (citing
Nolan v. Lee Ho, 577 A.2d 143, 146 (N.J. 1990)). A
contract is formed where there is offer and acceptance and
terms sufficiently definite that the performance to be
rendered by each party can be ascertained with reasonable
certainty. U.S. v. Lightman, 988 F.Supp. 448, 458
(D.N.J. 1997) (citing Weichert Co. Realtors v. Ryan,
128 N.J. 427, 435, 608 A.2d 280 (1992)). That contract is
enforceable if the parties agree on essential terms and
manifest an intention to be bound by those terms.
Id. Where the parties do not agree on one or more
essential terms, however, courts generally hold that the
agreement is unenforceable. Id.
settlement agreement need not be reduced to writing to be
binding. Vandergrift v. Pennsauken School District,
2017 WL 6566139, at *4 (D.N.J. 2017). “So long as the
basic essentials are sufficiently definite, any gap left by
the parties should not frustrate their intent to be
bound.” Id. (citing Hagrish v. Olson,
254 N.J.Super. 133, 138, 603 A.2d 108 (App. Div. 1992)
(citation and quotation omitted)).
party seeking to enforce the alleged settlement agreement has
the burden of proving the existence of the agreement under
contract law. Lightman, 988 F.Supp. at 458
(citations omitted). Courts treat a motion to enforce
settlement under the same standard as a motion for summary
judgment because the central issue is whether there is any
disputed issue of material fact as to the validity of the
settlement agreement. Washington v. Klem, 388
Fed.Appx. 84, 85 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Tiernan v.
Devoe, 923 F.2d 1024, 1031 (3d Cir. 1991)).
motion for summary judgment shall be granted “if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are
those facts “that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute
is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Id. “Where the record taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving
party, there is no genuine issue for trial.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). The same standards apply when addressing
cross-motions for summary judgment. See Lawrence v. City
of Phila., 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d Cir. 2008). If upon
review of ...