United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
O. Hickey United States District Judge
the Court is a Motion to Enforce Settlement filed by
Defendant Leslie Jessup. ECF No. 76. Plaintiff Donald
Stephens has responded. ECF. No. 77. This matter is ripe for
the Court’s consideration.
action arises out of an incident in which Plaintiff Donald
Stephens was accused of theft at Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot
Springs, Arkansas, and detained by Defendant Leslie Jessup.
Stephens filed the present action against
Jessup, alleging the following causes of action:
false imprisonment, conversion, defamation, violation of
civil rights, and intentional infliction of emotional
distress. Jessup claims that the parties reached an oral
agreement to settle this matter but that Stephens refuses to
honor the agreement.
counsel, Jim Simpson, asserts that, during a telephone call
with Stephens’s counsel, Maximillan Sprinkle, Simpson
offered to settle this lawsuit for $6,000.00. Sprinkle
replied that he needed to speak with Stephens about the
offer. On the morning of November 20, 2018, Simpson called
Sprinkle to inquire about the status of the settlement offer.
Sprinkle stated that Stephens had rejected the offer. In
response, Simpson asked if there was a counteroffer, and
Sprinkle stated that it would take $20,000.00 to settle the
case. Simpson asked Sprinkle to confirm that Stephens was
making an offer to settle the lawsuit in full for $20,000.00.
Sprinkle confirmed, and Simpson responded “we
accept,” apparently arriving at an oral agreement.
Simpson and Sprinkle then discussed settlement documents, and
Simpson agreed to draft and file the documents with the
that same day, Sprinkle called Simpson and expressed that
Stephens was unhappy with the settlement and wanted to
increase the agreed upon settlement amount. Simpson refused
to increase the settlement amount on behalf of Jessup, and no
settlement documents have been filed with the Court.
According to Simpson, Stephens has failed to abide by the
terms of the settlement agreement by refusing to accept the
settlement amount and dismiss the case.
principles of contract formation govern the existence and
enforcement of settlement agreements. Chaganti &
Assoc., P.C. v. Nowotny, 470 F.3d 1215, 1221 (8th Cir.
2006) (citing In re Airline Ticket Comm’n Antitrust
Litig., 268 F.3d 619, 623 (8th Cir. 2001)).
“Courts will enforce contracts of settlement if they
are not in contravention of law.” DaimlerChrysler
Corp. v. Smelser, 289 S.W.3d 466, 470 (Ark. 2008)
(citing McCoy Farms, Inc. v. J & M McKee, 563
S.W.2d 409 (1978)). “The essential elements of a
contract include (1) competent parties, (2) subject matter,
(3) legal consideration, (4) mutual agreement, and (5) mutual
obligations.” Id. (citing Ward v.
Williams, 118 S.W.3d 513, 521 (Ark. 2003)). A court
should keep in mind two legal principles when deciding
whether a valid contract was entered into: (1) a court cannot
make a contract for the parties but can only construe and
enforce the contract that they have made; and (2) to make a
contract there must be a meeting of the minds as to all
terms, using objective indicators. Id. (citing
Alltel Corp. v. Sumner, 203 S.W.3d 77, 80 (Ark.
2005)). Further, a party to a voluntary settlement agreement
cannot avoid the agreement simply because the agreement
ultimately proves to be disadvantageous or because he later
feels that the amount of the settlement is unsatisfactory.
Worthy v. McKesson Corp., 756 F.2d 1370, 1373 (8th
Cir. 1985) (citing Trnka v. Elanco Prods. Co., 709
F.2d 1223, 1227 (8th Cir.1983)); Rutherford v.
Rutherford, 98 S.W.3d 842, 845 (Ark. App. 2003)
(“One party’s displeasure with an agreement that
she had previously entered into is no ground for
present case, Stephens does not dispute the existence or
terms of the settlement agreement. Stephens also does not
dispute the facts surrounding the settlement negotiations as
set forth by Jessup. Simpson explicitly asked Sprinkle if
Stephens was offering to settle this lawsuit for $20,000.00.
Sprinkle confirmed and Simpson accepted on behalf of Jessup.
There is no dispute that the parties’ attorneys came to
a mutual understanding that Stephens would dismiss this
matter for the sum of $20,000.00. Stephens makes no argument
and there is no evidence in the record that any of the
essential elements of a contract are missing with respect to
the settlement agreement. Thus, the Court finds that a valid
and enforceable oral settlement contract was formed.
appears that Stephens is attempting to avoid being bound by
the oral agreement to settle and dismiss all claims against
Jessup for $20,000.00 because Stephens now believes the sum
to be inadequate. However, as discussed above, this is not a
lawful reason for Stephens to avoid the agreement. See
Visiting Nurse Ass’n, St. Louis v. VNAHealthcare,
Inc., 347 F.3d 1052, 1055 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing
Worthy v. McKesson Corp., 756 F.2d 1370, 1373 (8th
Cir.1985)) (“[T]he fact that a party decides after the
fact that a contract is not to its liking does not provide a
reason to suppose that a contract was not in fact formed or
to release that party from its obligation.”).
Accordingly, the Court finds that the Motion to Enforce
Settlement should be granted.
reasons stated above, the Court finds that Defendant Leslie
Jessup’s Motion to Enforce Settlement (ECF No. 76)
should be and hereby is GRANTED. The terms
of the oral settlement agreement shall be enforced. Jessup is
directed to deliver to Stephens the settlement check on or
before January 11, 2019. It is further ordered that this case
is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Court
retains jurisdiction to vacate this order and ...