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Savage v. City of Twin Falls

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 19, 2014



EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement ("Motion to Enforce") (Dkt. 32). In the interest of avoiding further delay and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will address and resolve this motion without a hearing. Therefore, having carefully reviewed the record, the Court enters the following Order.


On April 19, 2013, Plaintiff Michael Coleman Savage ("Plaintiff") filed suit against Defendants City of Twin Falls, Twin Falls City Police Department, Brian Pike, Chief of Police for Twin Falls City Police Department, Twin Falls City Police Department Officers Timothy Arrendondo and Isaiah Day, and Jane/John Does I-X (collectively referred to hereinafter as "Defendants"). Brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff alleges Defendants acted in their official capacities to deprive him of the rights protected by the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges Twin Falls City Police Officers Timothy Arrendondo ("Arrendondo") and Isaiah Day ("Day") acted under color of state law when they unlawfully searched and seized Plaintiff's vehicle, used excessive force, and falsely imprisoned Plaintiff following a traffic stop for a cracked windshield. Plaintiff also alleges Defendants City of Twin Falls, Twin Falls City Police Department, Twin Falls City Chief of Police Brian Pike and Does I-X, as supervisors, failed to use ordinary care and were negligent in the supervision, training and retention of Arrendondo and Day. Finally, Plaintiff brings claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants, and for civil assault and battery, false imprisonment, and false arrest against Arrendondo and Day.

Plaintiff's Complaint was filed through his former counsel of record, Keith Roark ("Mr. Roark") and Kevin Cassidy ("Mr. Cassidy") of "The Roark Law Firm, LLP" (collectively referred to hereinafter as "former counsel"). The Court entered a Scheduling Order on July 15, 2013 to establish various case management deadlines, including a February 3, 2014 deadline for dispositive motions. (Dkt. 18.) Plaintiff is unaware of any work his former counsel did to prosecute his case. (Dkt. 38-3, ¶ 3.) However, in December 2013, shortly before the dispositive motion deadline, Plaintiff alleges his former counsel began pressuring him to settle his case for a much lower amount than they had initially valued his claims.[1] ( Id., ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff did not give his former counsel settlement authority in December 2013, and stated he needed time to think about how he wished to proceed. ( Id. )

On January 16, 2014, Plaintiff's former counsel filed a Motion for Leave to Withdraw as Plaintiff's Counsel of Record ("Motion to Withdraw"). (Dkt. 20.) Plaintiff's former counsel's affidavit in support of the Motion to Withdraw stated:

Following the completion of the investigation and reviewing of documents supplied in the course of litigation in this matter, we advised our client of the course of action we believe to be compelled by our duty as attorneys and officers of this Court. Our clients [sic] have declined to accept our advice and the course of action they now wish to pursue is not in consistent [sic] with our professional judgment in this matter and is not compelled by our retention agreement. We have advised our clients that we must now seek leave of Court to withdraw from this action and they will need to proceed on their own behalf or retain replacement counsel.

(Dkt. 20-1, ¶¶ 4-6.)

Defendants filed a Notice of Non-Opposition to the Motion to Withdraw, and this Court entered an Order granting Plaintiff's former counsel leave to withdraw, on January 17, 2014. Plaintiff alleges his former counsel never gave him notice that they intended to withdraw, never explained why they were withdrawing, and never advised him of the impending dispositive motion deadline. (Dkt. 38-3, ¶ 6.) Plaintiff also contends that he never gave his former counsel consent to settle his claims, but did make an appointment, at the urging of his mother, with Mr. Cassidy to discuss his case further after the Motion to Withdraw had already been granted. ( Id., ¶ 7.) In the meantime, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on January 31, 2014. (Dkt. 25.)

During the week of February 3, 2014, Plaintiff met with Mr. Cassidy. (Dkt. 38-3, ¶ 8.) Mr. Cassidy again tried to pressure Plaintiff into settling his claims, and suggested Plaintiff make a settlement offer of $30, 000. ( Id. ) Plaintiff contested this amount, but eventually, at the urging of Mr. Cassidy, felt he had "no choice" but to settle his claims for $30, 000. ( Id. ) On February 10, 2014, Mr. Cassidy notified Plaintiff that Defendants had offered to settle for $10, 000. ( Id., ¶ 10.) Mr. Cassidy recommended that Plaintiff counter with a $20, 000 settlement offer. ( Id. ) Plaintiff reluctantly authorized Mr. Cassidy to settle the case for $20, 000. ( Id. )

On February 14, 2014, Mr. Cassidy again contacted Plaintiff and stated Defendants had made a final settlement offer of $15, 000. ( Id., ¶ 11.) Plaintiff responded he wanted to obtain his medical bills for Mr. Cassidy to review, and did not authorize Mr. Cassidy to settle his claims for $15, 000. ( Id. ) Frustrated with the increasing pressure to settle his case, Plaintiff did not bring his medical bills to Mr. Cassidy, and instead decided to seek new counsel. ( Id., ¶ 12.)

On February 17, 2014, Plaintiff received a voicemail from Mr. Cassidy asking him to provide his medical bills and advising him that he could either take Defendants' final settlement offer of $15, 000 or "walk away with nothing." (Dkt. 38, Ex. 1.) Mr. Cassidy thereafter contacted Plaintiff two more times to attempt to pressure him into settling for $15, 000, and hung up in a rage both times when Plaintiff continued to refuse to accept $15, 000. (Dkt. 38-3, ¶ 17.) On February 18, 2014, Plaintiff sent his former counsel a letter refusing the $15, 000 settlement offer, and noting his intention to obtain new counsel. (Dkt. 38, Ex. 3.)

Defendants contend that, after withdrawing from the case in January 2014, Mr. Cassidy contacted Defendants' counsel and relayed a settlement demand of $30, 000. (Dkt. 32-1, p. 3.) Defendants rejected this offer but, after negotiating, eventually agreed in early February 2014 to pay Plaintiff $15, 000 in exchange for dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims. ( Id. ) Defendants here seek to enforce the $15, 000 verbal settlement agreement. In support of their claim that the parties reached an agreement to settle the case for $15, 000, Defendants filed an affidavit from Mr. Cassidy stating Plaintiff unequivocally informed him in February 2014 that he had express authority to accept a counter-offer of $15, 000 as full settlement of Plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. 32-3, ¶¶ 7-8.) Defendants suggest Mr. Cassidy notified them a short time after the ...

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