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Datiz v. International Recovery Associates

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 1, 2017

LISA DATIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL RECOVERY ASSOCIATES, Defendant.

          ORDER

          A. KATHLEEN TOMLINSON U.S. Magistrate Judge

         On March 3, 2017, Defendant International Recovery Associates (“Defendant”) filed a letter motion asserting that “Plaintiff would not abide by the stipulation [purportedly entered into on the record during the August 23, 2016 status conference] between the parties that [they] would not move for summary judgment and that the above-entitled lawsuit would be tried before a jury.” DE 51 at 1.[1] Specifically, Defendant argues that “[v]ia his representations before [this Court] at the August 23, 2016 conference, Mr. Barshay bound the Plaintiff to her stipulation regarding waiving summary judgment and proceeding to trial.” Id. at 3. Thus, according to Defendant, the putative “stipulation” entered into between the parties during the August 23, 2016 conference constituted a “strategic litigation decision to waive summary judgment and proceed to [a] jury trial and the Plaintiff must be bound thereto.” Id.

         In response, Plaintiff primarily argues that “despite Defendant's insistence that the parties entered into a stipulation to waive their respective rights to move for summary judgment, no such stipulation exists, ” and that in any event, “the [Court's] Order does not state that the parties will not move for summary judgment, nor does it state that either side waives its right to move for summary judgment. Rather, the plain language of the Order evidences that on August 23, 2016, the parties did not intend to move for summary judgment.” DE 52 at 1-2. In addition, Plaintiff maintains that to the extent the Court's Order memorializes an oral stipulation between the parties concerning waiver of summary judgment motion practice, “then the Order also binds the parties to utilize experts.” Id. at 2. In that regard, Plaintiff argues that when Defendant, “without any explanation whatsoever, advised, via email, ‘that the Defendant has decided against retaining an expert, '” it “anticipatorily repudiated” the alleged stipulation with the effect that “Defendant may not now seek to enforce the stipulation, and plaintiff not only is excused from further performance under the stipulation, but may also, at her option, treat the contract as terminated for all purposes of performance.” Id. at 2-3. As such, Plaintiff urges the Court to deny Defendant's motion and permit her to proceed with summary judgment motion practice in accordance with Judge Spatt's Individual Rules. Id. at 4.

         Oral Stipulations entered into on the record in open court “are treated as contracts to be construed in accordance with contract law principles.” In re MarketXT Holdings Corp., 336 B.R. 39, 58-59 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (citing Omega Eng'g, Inc. v. Omega, S.A., 432 F.3d 437, 443-44 (2d Cir. 2005); Rella v. N. Atl. Marine, Ltd., No. 02 Civ. 8573, 2004 WL 1418021, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 23, 2004); see In re Petker & Buran Fur Corp., 201 B.R. 861, 863 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), aff'd, 104 F.3d 351 (2d Cir. 1996) (“A settlement agreement-including one made in open court-is a contract and is construed using contract law principles.”). It follows that “parties are bound to agreements entered into on the record in open court by an attorney who has actual or apparent authority to so act.” In re MarketXT Holdings Corp., 336 B.R. at 58-59; see Pereira v. Sonia Holdings, Ltd. (In re Artha Mgmt., Inc.), 91 F.3d 326, 329 (2d Cir. 1996); United States v. Int'l Bd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, 986 F.2d 15, 19 (2d Cir. 1993).

         As with any other agreement, however, there must exist “a meeting of the minds between the parties on all essential terms.” Rella, 2004 WL 1418021, at *3; In re MarketXT Holdings Corp., 336 B.R. at 58-59; see also Sprint Commc'ns Co. L.P. v. Jasco Trading, Inc., 5 F.Supp.3d 323, 329 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (“[P]arties are free to bind themselves orally, and the fact that they contemplate later memorializing their agreement in an executed document will not prevent them from being bound by the oral agreement . . . However, if the parties intend not to be bound until the agreement is set forth in writing and signed, they will not be bound until then.”). “In determining intent, the court is not to look at the parties' after-the-fact professed subjective intent, but their objective intent as manifested by their expressed words and deeds at the time, ' and only [i]f the parties' expressions and conduct would lead a reasonable man to determine that they intended to reach a binding agreement, their agreement will be enforced.” Stetson v. Duncan, 707 F.Supp. 657, 666 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (quoting Reprosystem, B.V. v. SCM Corp., 522 F.Supp. 1257, 1275 (S.D.N.Y. 1981), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 727 F.2d 257 (2d Cir. 1984)); see Blake v. Fiit Int'l, Inc., No. 05 CIV. 6150, 2007 WL 980362, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2007). Courts generally favor stipulations because “strict enforcement not only serves the interest of efficient dispute resolution but also is essential to the management of court calendars and integrity of the litigation process.” In re MarketXT Holdings Corp., 336 B.R. at 58-59; In re Cuffee, 232 B.R. 53, 56 (E.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 201 F.3d 430 (2d Cir. 1999).

         Turning to the instant case, Defendant's argument (i.e., that a stipulation existed between the parties to waive summary judgment motion practice and proceed to a trial by jury) rests exclusively on the content of the Court's colloquy with the parties during the August 23, 2016 conference in conjunction with certain language utilized by the Court in its Minute Order memorializing that conference. See DE 37 (August 23, 2016 Minute Order); DE 55-1 (Transcript of the August 23, 2016 before the Honorable A. Kathleen Tomlinson (“Tr.”)). Specifically, during the conference, the following exchanges took place:

MR. ARLEO: I would say, your Honor, that the defendant in this case (ui) would stipulate to this case that it could be a question for the jury, whether or not (ui) consumer would think that the creditor was not (ui). I think at this point, the defendant is ready for a jury trial.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. ARLEO: Pending Judge Spatt's decision on the certification issue.
THE COURT: Okay. Does that mean you're going to forego summary judgment?
MR. ARLEO: Yes.
MR. BARSHAY: From the plaintiff's point of view, Judge, all we need -- all we have to do is expert disclosure and then we're ready for trial as well.
THE COURT: Expert ...

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