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CRUZ v. KOREAN AIR LINES CO.

December 2, 1993

ROBERTA CRUZ, as Personal Representative and Executrix of the Estate of ALFREDO CRUZ, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
KOREAN AIR LINES CO., LTD., Defendant.


Leval


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PETER N. LEVAL

PIERRE N. LEVAL, U.S.D.J.

 Defendant Korean Air Lines (KAL) moves to enforce a settlement agreement reached between counsel for plaintiff and counsel for defendant on June 17, 1992.

 Background

 Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not in dispute. This is one of many wrongful death actions arising from the downing of KAL flight KE007 on September 1, 1983. The action was brought by Roberta Cruz, the surviving widow of Alfredo Cruz, one of the passengers who died on the aircraft, as executrix on behalf of the estate of her deceased husband and on behalf of her five adult children. In November 1983, Roberta Cruz retained Milton Sincoff, of the firm of Kreindler & Kreindler, to represent her in this action, which was filed in late 1983. The complaint includes claims for loss of support, loss of services, loss of companionship, and grief and suffering, all on behalf of Roberta Cruz and the children, and for pain and suffering on behalf of the estate of the decedent.

 On January 20, 1992, Roberta Cruz met with Mr. Sincoff and, according to her affidavit,

 
authorized Mr. Sincoff to discuss settlement with KAL's lawyers. Mr. Sincoff assured me specifically on January 20, 1992 that no settlement agreement would be considered final until all of the necessary papers were signed and a check had been delivered and deposited.

 Roberta Cruz Affidavit P 3. At this same meeting, according to Mr. Sincoff,

 Sincoff Affidavit P 3.

 On June 17, 1992, counsel for both parties met to discuss settlement. They agreed on a settlement amount of $ 800,000. Mr. Sincoff spoke to plaintiff that day, told her of KAL's offer of $ 800,000, and "she again specifically authorized settlement for that sum." Sincoff Affidavit P 3. *fn1" According to Roberta Cruz, "I told Mr. Sincoff, in substance, that I was relying on his judgment in this because I have no experience in such matters. I did not realize that the settlement would be concluded immediately based on this telephone conversation." Roberta Cruz Affidavit P 4.

 Later that day, Mr. Sincoff sent a letter by facsimile to George N. Tomkins, Jr., counsel for KAL, confirming the settlement. The letter read: "This will confirm your conversations with Lee [Kreindler] in which it was agreed by both of you that Cruz settled for $ 800,000." Mr. Tomkins sent a facsimile letter to Mr. Sincoff the same day that read, "I refer to your facsimile of June 17, 1992 and confirm our agreement to settle this case for the sum of $ 800,000."

 Mr. Sincoff immediately sent a general release specifying the $ 800,000 settlement to Roberta Cruz and her five children for their signatures. A month later, he received the general release signed by plaintiff and three of her children. This document released KAL from liability for

 
all actions, causes of action, suits, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts, reckonings, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, contracts controversies, agreements, promises, variances, trespasses, damages, judgments, extents, executions, claims, and demands whatsoever, in law, admiralty or equity, which against the RELEASEE, the RELEASOR, RELEASOR's heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns ever had, now have ...

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