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Construction Industry Laborers Pension Fund v. Wellington Concrete, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 1, 2016

CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY LABORERS PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WELLINGTON CONCRETE, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This closed matter is before the Court on plaintiffs' motion to enforce settlement against defendant Wellington Concrete, LLC (“Wellington”). Defendant Wellington did not respond to the motion, and the time to do so has expired. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiffs' motion to enforce settlement.

         Background

         On May 20, 2015, plaintiffs brought a three-count complaint against Wellington under Sections 502 and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (hereinafter referred to as “ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132 and 1145. Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint that Wellington agreed to be bound by the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the Site Improvement Association and the Eastern Missouri Laborers' District Council and Local Union No. 660. Plaintiffs further allege that Wellington employed laborers under the terms of the CBA, but Wellington failed and has refused to submit remittance reports and to pay and contribute to the various funds, as required by the CBA. In their Complaint, plaintiffs seek delinquent contributions, liquidated damages, interest, attorneys' fees and costs.

         Wellington answered plaintiffs' Complaint, and on July 22, 2015, the parties filed a joint motion to stay the case in order to allow for an audit of Wellington's books and records. The Court granted the motion, and the case was stayed until September 5, 2015. On May 23, 2016, the parties filed a Stipulation for Dismissal with Prejudice. In their stipulation, the parties notified the Court that they had reached a settlement, and they stated that the parties agreed that the Court “shall retain jurisdiction over the Release and Settlement Agreement between the parties for purposes of enforcement of its terms.” Doc. 22. On May 24, 2016, the case was dismissed with prejudice.

         In the motion presently before the Court, plaintiffs state that under the terms of the Release and Settlement Agreement (“Settlement Agreement”) between the parties, defendant Wellington agreed to pay the plaintiff funds a total of $17, 550.00 in eighteen monthly payments of $975.00, beginning in May 2016. Plaintiffs further state in their motion that defendant Wellington made the first installment under the terms of the Settlement Agreement but has not made any subsequent payments.

         A copy of the signed Settlement Agreement was attached to the motion to enforce settlement.

         The Settlement Agreement provides, in part:

In the event of the monthly installment are not received . . . on or by the 15th of the month in accordance with the terms of this Agreement, . . . Defendant shall be in default and the entire remaining balance owed by Defendant to the Funds as stated herein shall become due immediately to the Funds and the Funds shall have all rights of execution to collect the outstanding balance if the remaining balance is not paid within 30 days of the Plaintiffs' written demand.

Doc. 24, Ex. 1 at 2.

         Plaintiffs represent that they sent Wellington a written demand letter for payment of the delinquent installments, but defendant has not made any further payments. Plaintiffs assert that under the terms of the Settlement Agreement between the parties, defendant Wellington is in default, and the entire remaining balance is due to plaintiffs. For relief, plaintiffs request that the Court enter judgment in favor of plaintiffs and against defendant Wellington in the amount of $16, 575.00, plus attorneys' fees in the amount of $750.00.

         Discussion

         A district court has inherent power to enforce a settlement agreement entered into by parties in a case. Barry v. Barry, 172 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir. 1999). “Once parties have settled a dispute and have agreed to settlement terms, the parties cannot rescind it.” Caleshu v. Merrill Lynch, 737 F.Supp. 1070, 1086 (E.D. Mo. 1990) (citing Kelly v. Greer, 365 F.2d 669, 673 (3rd Cir. 1966)). A settlement agreement is a contract between the parties and, therefore, contract law governs its enforcement. Visiting Nurse Assoc., St. Louis v. VNA Healthcare, Inc., 347 F.3d 1052, 1053 (8th Cir. 2003).

         The Settlement Agreement stipulates that Missouri law governs the terms of the agreement. Doc. 24, Ex. 1 at 2. In Missouri, interpreting a settlement agreement is a question of law, and it is “interpreted according to the same principles that govern the interpretation of any other type of contract.” Parks v. MBNA Am. Bank, 204 S.W.3d 305, 311 (Mo.Ct.App. 2006). The principal question under Missouri law is to determine whether there was a mutual acceptance of the terms of the agreement. Visiting Nurse Assoc., 347 F.3d at 1054. To form a valid contract in Missouri, the Court must find the basic contract elements of offer, acceptance, and consideration. Beck v. Shrum, 18 S.W.3d 8, 10 (Mo.Ct.App. 2000). Additionally, “in Missouri, the party attacking a release or settlement ‘bears the burden of showing that the contract he has made is tainted with invalidity, either by fraud practiced upon him or ...


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