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Proctor v. Capital One, N.A.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 24, 2018

CAPITAL ONE, N.A., et al., Defendants.



         The Court has received the [54-1] Sealed Joint Status Report, filed by Plaintiff Charnita Proctor and Defendants Capital One, N.A. and Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. (collectively, "Capital One"), in response to the Court's [51] Order, [53] Memorandum Opinion, and that Memorandum Opinion's [52] sealed equivalent.

         Upon consideration of their filing, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall APPROVE a revised version of the settlement agreement, as the Court shall herein modify, and Plaintiff and Defendant Capital One shall execute that settlement agreement by AUGUST 31, 2018.

         The Court finds no further need for adjudication of this case, and accordingly shall DISMISS this action WITHOUT PREJUDICE until AUGUST 31, 2018, when the matter shall, without further order, stand dismissed WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court shall briefly summarize the timeline of the parties' settlement of this litigation.[1]

         On November 8, 2017, Defendant orally discussed a settlement with Plaintiff, who was unrepresented by counsel at that time. There arose some dispute afterwards as to the finality of that discussion. Defendant understood the parties to have concluded their settlement, pending its memorization in writing, which Defendant promptly did. That document reflected what Defendant would later characterize as the material terms of the parties' oral agreement, namely: “(Xxxxx)," Am. Unredacted Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 ("Apr. 3, 2018 Opinion"), at 3 (quoting Capital One's Sealed Mem. in Supp. of Their Mot. to Enforce Settlement, ECF No. 18-1, at 6).

         Upon receiving Defendant's written version, however, Plaintiff objected to one of the further terms calling for her to provide Defendant with a (Xxxxx). She did not otherwise object to Defendant's document. Once defense counsel secured his client's approval to drop the (Xxxxx), counsel pursued Plaintiffs execution of the written agreement. Plaintiff, through counsel she had by then retained, ultimately refused to acknowledge the settlement.

         On January 12, 2018, Capital One filed its [17] Motion to Enforce Settlement, and upon the conclusion of briefing, the Court granted that motion in large part on April 3, 2018. See Apr. 3, 2018 Opinion, The Court found that the parties had indeed reached a settlement orally and that the written agreement was an accurate reflection thereof, with two exceptions. Id. at 2. First, the oral agreement did not include the (Xxxxx) so the written version needed to be revised to exclude it, as Defendant had already agreed to do. Id. at 4-5. Second, the Court dealt with Plaintiffs more recent objection to the scope of the release contained in the written agreement. Id. at 4. Plaintiff was concerned that Defendant's broad language would require her to release claims as to certain credit card accounts that Defendant evidently had charged off, and potentially other claims as well. See Id. at 3-4. The Court determined that the record lacked any indication that the settlement would cover "anything other than the specific car loan described in the settlement agreement." Id. at 4, Accordingly, the Court instructed the parties to revise the written version to reflect that narrowed scope on which the oral agreement was premised. Id. at 5.

         The parties' ensuing status reports demonstrated further difficulties in confirming the language in the written settlement agreement. On August 15, 2018, the Court ruled that two out of the three disputes that had most recently presented themselves could be promptly resolved. The Court found first that Plaintiff had raised, and then dropped, an objection to (Xxxxx) Unredacted Mem. Op., ECF No. 52, at 2-3 ("Aug. 15, 20IB Opinion"). Second, the date that the parties "(Xxxxx)” agreement, for purposes of the written version, was the date of the oral agreement on November 8, 2017. Id. at 3. The date of execution of the written agreement would necessarily be later, namely upon the resolution of disputes as to the scope of the written language. See Id. at 4. Third, and more thornily, the parties again disagreed as to the appropriate language to represent the scope of their oral agreement. Plaintiffs representations raised questions about whether she had intended to release any future claims regarding the 2010 auto loan at issue, i.e., any claims other than those she had raised in her Complaint. See Id. at 4-6. Because the parties had already orally entered into a settlement, the Court rejected Plaintiffs attempt to broaden the scope of this lawsuit to claims outside of the 2010 auto loan at issue. Id. at 5-6. The Court called for further elucidation of any claims Plaintiff might have as to the 2010 auto loan, Id. at 6.

         As instructed by the Court, the parties dispute this issue further in their [54-1] Sealed Joint Status Report, to which the Court shall momentarily turn. Before doing so, the Court observes sua sponte that, despite the parties' ongoing disagreement in the pleading, it remains unnecessary to hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve this case. Defendant has "carried the burden of proving the existence of a settlement agreement by clear and convincing evidence." Apr. 3, 2018 Opinion at 2 (quoting Samra v. Shaheen Bus. & Inv. Grp., Inc., 355 F.Supp.2d 483, 494 (D.D.C. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted). This Sealed Joint Status Report supports a finding under District of Columbia law that "an enforceable contract exists [because] there is an agreement about all material terms and an intention of the parties to be bound." Id. (quoting United States v. Mahoney, 247 F.3d 279, 285 (D.C. Cir. 2001)) (internal quotation marks omitted).[2]


         Plaintiff argues not only that she has several additional claims related to the 2010 auto loan, but that she should not be required to release them in this settlement agreement. Sealed Joint Status Report, ECF No. 54-1, at 1-3. For the first time, Plaintiff raises "two additional claims stem[ming] from Capital One's failure to properly respond to her dispute letters from December 28, 2017 and June 2, 2018." Id. at 1. But the Court finds that neither "claim" is distinct from the claims in her underlying lawsuit, which she has agreed to settle.

         Plaintiff indicates that the December 2017 dispute consisted of a challenge to "the subject tradeline and a credit card account with Capital One." Id. The latter is outside the scope of this lawsuit, as the Court's April 3, 2018, and August 15, 2018, Opinions made clear. Turning to the "subject tradeline," Plaintiff summarily describes the dispute as consisting of her expectation that the tradeline would be deleted sooner from her credit report. See Id. at 1-2. But Plaintiff could have no justifiable reason to expect that Defendant would have requested back in December 2017 that the credit agencies delete the tradeline. Defendant maintains that it has not committed any wrongdoing-as the written settlement agreement reflects-and so it only would proceed to give Plaintiff the benefit of the November 2017 settlement upon her execution of the written agreement, which Plaintiff continues to delay. See Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release of Claims, ECF No. 54-2, ¶ 6 (denying wrongdoing and liability). Plaintiff draws from other jurisdictions for the proposition that a fresh claim arises each time the plaintiff has to dispute the same tradeline. See Sealed Joint Status Report, ECF No. 54-1, at 13-14 (citing, e.g., Vasquez v. Bank of Am., N.A., Case No. 15-cv-04072-RS, 2015 WL 7075628 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 13, 2015); Broccuto v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:07CV782-HEH, 2008 WL 1969222, at *4 (E.D. Va. May 6, 2008)). And she again cites out-of-circuit authority to suggest that a settlement containing a release as to prior conduct does not cover subsequent conduct. See Id. at 14 (citing Orsini v. O/S SEABROOKE O.N., 247 F.3d 953, 965 ...

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