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SOMERVELL v. BAXTER HEALTHCARE CORP.

June 4, 1997

MARGARET G. SOMERVELL, Plaintiff,
v.
BAXTER HEALTHCARE CORPORATION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON

 This matter is before the Court on Defendant Baxter Healthcare Corporation's Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment. The Court has carefully considered the pleadings of the parties, the entire record contained herein, and the arguments made by counsel at a hearing held in this action on January 22, 1997. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court grants Baxter's motion and dismisses the case.

 I. BACKGROUND

 In October 1995, Defendant Baxter Healthcare Corporation fired Plaintiff Margaret Somervell from her employment with Baxter. Somervell contends her firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112, 12132, and the District of Columbia's Human Rights law, D.C. Code § 1-2501 et seq. In addition, Somervell asserts that Baxter's behavior surrounding her firing constituted illegal coercion and intentional infliction of emotional harm. Baxter has moved to dismiss the complaint or alternatively for summary judgment because of a settlement and release agreement allegedly entered into by the parties.

 The release states:

 
In exchange for the benefits under this agreement, you waive your right to file or participate as a class member in any claims or lawsuits (whether or not you now know the basis for the claims or lawsuits) with federal or state agencies or courts against the Company and its employee benefit plans, including their present and former director, officers, employees, agents and fiduciaries. This waiver of release includes, but is not limited to, all claims of unlawful discrimination in regard to age, race, sex, color, religion, national origin and disability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or any other federal or state statutes, all claims for wrongful employment termination or breach of contract and any other claims relating to your employment or termination of employment with the Company.

 Appendix 1 to Defendant's Memorandum at 4 (the "release"). The Court is convinced, and Somervell has not argued otherwise, that if the release is binding on Somervell, her lawsuit against Baxter is barred. It is undisputed that Somervell did not sign the release. However, Baxter argues that although Somervell did not sign the release, Somervell's receipt of the monetary consideration paid by Baxter to Somervell in exchange for the release binds her to its terms.

 The release required the employee to "acknowledge[s] that the benefits provided in this agreement exceed the benefits you would normally receive and that those extra benefits are provided by the Company in exchange for your signing this agreement." During the October 9 meeting, Baxter told Somervell that the payment of the three months salary was in exchange for Somervell's waiver of her right to sue. Conversely, Baxter told Somervell that the accrued vacation and leave time payment was not in exchange for signing the release agreement, but was, instead, something that Baxter owed Somervell regardless of her signature on the release agreement.

 Somervell did not sign the agreement. Nonetheless, on October 20, 1995, Baxter made two direct deposits into Somervell's bank account in the amounts of $ 5,368.96 and $ 1,949.04. The payments represented the three months salary, minus taxes, and Somervell's accrued leave time, minus taxes. Baxter admitted that it made the $ 5,368.96 deposit in error; Baxter's payroll department should not have made the payment until Somervell signed and returned the release. Accordingly, on November 6, 1995, Baxter wrote to Somervell. The letter mentioned the $ 5,368.96 payment, and said that Baxter deposited that amount due to a payroll error. The letter restated that the three months salary payment was in exchange for signing the release, and requested that Somervell either return the signed agreement or the $ 5,368.96.

 In response, on December 18, 1995, Somervell wrote back to Baxter. Somervell stated that she was confused as to the contents of the letter, and questioned what the $ 5,368.96 payment was for. Somervell also stated that she never received the payment for her accrued and unused vacation time. To date, Somervell has refused to return the money paid to her.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Overview

 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b), the Court, because it must rely on matters outside of the pleadings to resolve this motion, will treat Baxter's motion as a motion for Summary Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that the Court should enter summary judgment in favor of a party if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and [] the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff may not rest on her pleadings, but must set forth specific facts that are in dispute. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The disputed facts must be sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find for Plaintiff. Washington Post Co. v. HHS, 275 U.S. App. D.C. 101, 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989); Laningham v. United States Navy, 259 U.S. App. D.C. 115, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). When evaluating a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the evidence in favor of ...


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