United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
For Mukesh Patel, Plaintiff: James Richard Theuer, James R. Theuer, PLLC, Norfolk, VA.
For Harshad D. Barot, Prakash D. Barot, CAAP Hospitality, LLC, Shrinidhi Corporation, Inc., DBSH, LLC, Defendants: Thomas Michael Lucas, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jackson Lewis LLP (Norfolk - Main St), Norfolk, VA.
OPINION AND ORDER
HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Harshad D. Barot; Prakash D. Barot; CAAP Hospitality, LLC; DBSH, LLC; and Shrinidhi Corporation, Inc.'s (" Defendants" ) Motion for Settlement and Dismissal, Doc. 39, and Amended Motion for Settlement Approval, Doc. 42, as well as Plaintiff Mukesh Patel's (" Plaintiff" or " Patel" ) counsel's Motion to Withdraw as Attorney, Doc. 45. For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS the above Motions.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
On May 2, 2013, Patel filed a Complaint against the Defendants, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), violations of Virginia's minimum wage law, assault, and battery. Doc. 1. A settlement conference was held before United States Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leonard on January 14, 2014. Settlement discussions continued, and a Joint Notice of Settlement was filed on January 27, 2014. Doc. 38. A Motion for Settlement and Dismissal was filed by the Defendants on February 5, 2014, Doc. 39, followed by a Motion for Settlement Approval filed on February 7, 2014. Doc. 42. Plaintiff then filed a Memorandum in Opposition to the
Motions on February 19, 2014. Doc. 44. Plaintiff's counsel, James R. Theuer (" Theuer" ), then filed a Motion to Withdraw that same day. Doc. 45.
Plaintiff's Opposition did not state why he opposed the settlement. Doc. 44. In their supporting Memorandum, Defendants submitted an e-mail dated January 27, 2014 from Plaintiffs counsel stating, in whole:
This confirms that Plaintiff accepts the offer of settlement, to wit:
Defendants will pay $100,000 in six equal installments beginning 14 days from court approval and on 30-day intervals thereafter. Plaintiff will designate the allocation.
In addition, Defendants will not dispute such that Plaintiff will get the $4855.85 on deposit with DOL  from DBSH.
The settlement amount will be secured through a promissory note and recorded DOT by CAAP Hospitality, LLC, against the Hampton Bay Plaza hotel property.
Court retains jurisdiction to enforce the settlement.
Doc. 39-1. The e-mail is signed by Plaintiff's counsel. Id. The Settlement Agreement (" Agreement" ) contains these terms. Doc. 39-2. However, it contains numerous additional terms not memorialized in this e-mail. Many are general releases that would be expected in a settlement agreement, claiming both Plaintiff and Defendants waive all causes of action against each other. The Agreement also contains language whereby the Defendants do not admit liability, but again this is not uncommon to a settlement agreement. The Agreement also contains a choice of law provision specifying Virginia law; a forum selection clause; a clause regarding the award of attorney's fees in an action to enforce the Agreement; a warning regarding potential tax consequences of the Agreement; and other disclaimers regarding bankruptcy, misrepresentations, and violations. Furthermore, the Agreement contains language stating that it " shall be effective upon exchange by the parties of fully executed copies of this Agreement." Doc. 39-2 at 8.
The Court held a hearing on the Motion to Withdraw on March 5, 2014. Despite being orally instructed to appear, Plaintiff failed to appear. Plaintiff's counsel represented to the Court that he was concerned if forced to continue representing the Plaintiff, he could run afoul of his responsibilities under the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct. The Court, while recognizing his concern, denied the Motion to Withdraw without prejudice, and ordered a hearing on March 19, 2014 on the pending Motions regarding the Settlement Agreement. Doc. 50. The Court gave leave to the parties to file supplemental briefing on the enforceability of the Settlement Agreement, but neither party filed a brief.
A hearing was then held on March 19, 2014 concerning the enforceability and fairness of the proposed Agreement. The Court first called Patel as a witness. Patel testified that he never fully agreed to the settlement, but that he forgot to tell Theuer to consider the injury portion of his case because he was busy when Theuer called him to discuss the terms of the Agreement. Patel testified that he told Theuer the settlement was acceptable for the wage portion of the case. Patel testified he did not realize the settlement was
for the entire case until he received the ...