Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fennell v. TLB Kent Co. case brief

Fennell v. TLB Kent Co. case brief summary
865 F.2d 498 (1989)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff employee challenged the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which dismissed plaintiff's action, approved a settlement agreement, and held that plaintiff's counsel had apparent authority to enter into a settlement agreement with defendant employers in plaintiff's wrongful discharge action. Plaintiff alleged that his attorney had no apparent authority to settle the case.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff employee brought a wrongful discharge action against defendant employers under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981. The case was on the district court's ready calendar. During a telephone conversation, plaintiff's attorney agreed to settle the case for a certain sum. The settlement was conditioned upon execution of a general release and filing of discontinuance. The settlement was reported in a telephone conference call to the district judge, who approved the agreement, dismissed plaintiff's action, and provided that the case could be restored by letter within 60 days of the order. More than 60 days later, plaintiff sought to restore the case, which the district court refused to do.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, the court reversed and held that the dismissal was improper because plaintiff's counsel did not have apparent authority to settle the case. 
  • As such, plaintiff was not bound by the settlement agreement. 
  • Plaintiff took no positive action and made no manifestations to defendants' counsel that plaintiff's attorney and his associates represented him. 
  • The district court's finding that plaintiff's attorney was authorized to appear at conferences for plaintiff was inconsequential.

CONCLUSION
The court reversed and remanded the order dismissing plaintiff employee's wrongful discharge action against defendant employers and approving the settlement agreement. Plaintiff's attorney did not have apparent authority to enter into settlement agreement with defendants, and as such, respondent was not bound by the agreement.


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