Ellis v. Ethicon Inc., 061115 FED3, 14-2937

Docket Nº:14-2937, 14-3000
Opinion Judge:BARRY, Circuit Judge
Party Name:THERESA M. ELLIS; SCOTT A. ZUKOWSKI v. ETHICON INC; JOHNSON & JOHNSON; JOHN DOES, jointly, severally, and/or in the alternative Theresa M. Ellis, Appellant THERESA M. ELLIS; SCOTT A. ZUKOWSKI v. ETHICON INC; JOHNSON & JOHNSON Ethicon Inc., Appellant
Judge Panel:Before: CHAGARES, JORDAN and BARRY, Circuit Judges
Case Date:June 11, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

THERESA M. ELLIS; SCOTT A. ZUKOWSKI

v.

ETHICON INC; JOHNSON & JOHNSON; JOHN DOES, jointly, severally, and/or in the alternative Theresa M. Ellis, Appellant

THERESA M. ELLIS; SCOTT A. ZUKOWSKI

v.

ETHICON INC; JOHNSON & JOHNSON Ethicon Inc., Appellant

Nos. 14-2937, 14-3000

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

June 11, 2015

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) April 24, 2015

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 3-05-cv-00726) District Judge: Honorable Peter G. Sheridan

Before: CHAGARES, JORDAN and BARRY, Circuit Judges

OPINION [*]

BARRY, Circuit Judge

In this long-running employment discrimination suit, Theresa Ellis appeals, pro se, the District Court's order enforcing the parties' signed settlement agreement and, in the alternative, granting Ethicon, Inc. ("Ethicon") relief from the Court's prior judgment, which had ordered Ellis's reinstatement at Ethicon. Ethicon cross-appeals and argues that the Court erred by enforcing only the handwritten agreement signed by the parties at mediation rather than the unsigned agreement prepared by Ethicon four days later. We will affirm.

I

Ellis suffered a minor traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident and brought suit in 2005, alleging that Ethicon, her then-employer, refused to accommodate her cognitive disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. Following a jury verdict for Ellis and post-trial motions, the District Court entered a final amended judgment on March 1, 2010. That judgment provided that Ellis "be reinstated to Ethicon as a quality engineer, or comparable position, " paid approximately $54, 000 in back pay, and receive attorneys' fees. (App. at 133-36.) We affirmed. Ellis v. Ethicon, Inc. (Ellis I), 529 F.App'x 310 (3d Cir. 2013).

Thereafter, Ethicon moved for relief from the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5). Ethicon contended that it had met its reinstatement obligation by twice offering Ellis comparable positions, which she twice refused, and that prospective application of the judgment was no longer equitable. Prior to the scheduled hearing on the Rule 60(b) motion, the parties agreed to mediation.

Mediation occurred on March 7, 2014, before retired Magistrate Judge Diane M. Welsh. The mediation concluded with what certainly appeared to be a settlement when Ellis and Ethicon's counsel signed a handwritten statement that Ellis was accepting specific payment as "full and final settlement of this matter." (App. at 337.) Four days later, Ethicon sent Ellis what it claimed was a formalized settlement agreement, which Ellis never signed. Ethicon then moved for enforcement of the settlement.

The District Court held a hearing on Ethicon's Rule 60(b) and settlement enforcement motions and, on June 2, 2014, granted both motions, thereby discharging Ethicon's obligations under the final judgment. However, because the Court found that Ellis was mentally competent at the mediation and had entered an enforceable settlement as memorialized by the signed agreement, it declined to enforce the terms of the subsequent, unsigned agreement drafted by Ethicon.

II

As an initial matter, Ellis challenges the District Court's jurisdiction to discharge the reinstatement and back-pay obligations it had previously ordered against Ethicon. The Court, however, had ancillary jurisdiction over Ethicon's Rule 60(b) and settlement enforcement motions flowing from its jurisdiction over Ellis's original suit under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. See Bryan v. Erie Cnty. Office of Children & Youth, 752 F.3d 316, 321-22 (3d Cir. 2014). Moreover, our Ellis I opinion did not affect the District Court's jurisdiction, as Ellis contends, because Ethicon's compliance with its reinstatement obligation and the parties' mediated settlement arose subsequent to...

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