Janneh v. GAF Corp., No. 73

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtIRVING R. KAUFMAN
Citation887 F.2d 432
Parties51 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 12, 51 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 39,403, 58 USLW 2247, 15 Fed.R.Serv.3d 311 Doudou JANNEH, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GAF CORPORATION and Ozalid Corporation, Defendants, GAF Corporation, Defendant-Appellant. ocket 89-7354.
Decision Date11 October 1989
Docket NumberNo. 73,D

Page 432

887 F.2d 432
51 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 12, 51 Empl. Prac.
Dec. P 39,403,
58 USLW 2247, 15 Fed.R.Serv.3d 311
Doudou JANNEH, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GAF CORPORATION and Ozalid Corporation, Defendants,
GAF Corporation, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 73, Docket 89-7354.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued Sept. 15, 1989.
Decided Oct. 11, 1989.

Page 433

Patrick G. Brady, Newark, N.J. (Kevin C. Donovan, Carpenter, Bennett & Morrissey, Newark, N.J., of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Allen Stone, Philadelphia, Pa. (Michelle E. Stone, Stone and Stone, Philadelphia, Pa., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before KAUFMAN, CARDAMONE and FRIEDMAN *, Circuit Judges.

IRVING R. KAUFMAN, Circuit Judge:

Should a court system awash in backlog delay further the disposition of a case where there is convincing proof that a settlement has been reached? In this case we confront that question from two perspectives. The immediate issue, of paramount importance to the litigants, is whether a compromise was reached in this particular instance.

The broader question concerns how best this Court should deal with such disputes. We are told that by allowing immediate appeal from an order denying enforcement of a purported settlement we undermine the salutary final judgment rule. But, we also gain an opportunity to review an order whose main effect is to keep alive litigation that arguably has been settled--thereby increasing the burden on the system as a whole. The ultimate question is whether such interlocutory orders present a need for immediate review urgent enough to overcome the general requirement of finality.

I.

Because the details of settlement negotiations in this case are critical to a determination of whether an agreement was reached, we recite some of the steps leading to the settlement.

Page 434

In 1983 Appellee Doudou Janneh instituted a pro se action alleging that his employer, Appellant GAF Corporation, wrongfully denied him a promotion and permitted the existence of a racially hostile workplace, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 2000e-2000e-17, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1981, and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y.Exec.Law Sec. 290 et seq.

The suit proceeded at a leisurely pace until June of 1985 when Janneh offered to settle for $80,000, a sum GAF categorically rejected as "ridiculous." After Janneh reduced the proposal to $25,000, and GAF unsuccessfully counteroffered $500, the court appointed Alexander Luckanick as counsel for Janneh. Luckanick informed his client that a maximum recovery would approximate $10,000.

With Janneh's authority, Luckanick telephoned Brady and proposed settling for $6,000. This sparked a $3,000 counteroffer. Luckanick recommended accepting this offer and Janneh agreed. On December 22, 1987, Luckanick forwarded to Brady a confirmation letter stating that Janneh was "agreeable to settling his claim against GAF for $3,000," and Janneh signed the letter below a line reading: "I agree to settle my case for three thousand dollars."

On January 4, 1988, Janneh decided he wanted new counsel and so advised Judge McAvoy. His ex parte letter made no reference to the December 22 "settlement letter" and in fact asserted that negotiations had failed. 1 His request was denied.

After several discussions during which Luckanick advised that he planned to withdraw as counsel, Brady indicated his intent to enforce the settlement.

In July, 1988, Brady informed the court of the settlement agreement. During a September status conference, at which Luckanick finally withdrew and new counsel was appointed, Janneh attacked the settlement. He did not deny signing the letter agreement, but instead argued that the settlement should be set aside because he "signed this agreement under civil pressure": his former counsel, he claimed, told him that he did not have much of a case, thus "coercing" him to settle.

Later, GAF moved for an order enforcing the settlement agreement. Judge McAvoy denied the motion, finding "that no such settlement agreement was ever formed." It is that order from which GAF appeals.

II.

Before addressing the merits of GAF's appeal, we consider the threshold question whether we have jurisdiction over the controversy. We hold that the collateral order exception to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 confers appellate jurisdiction over this case.

Title 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 establishes a policy against piecemeal litigation by providing appellate review only on "final decisions" of the district courts. The order of the court below is not "final" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291. The judiciary, however, has crafted the "collateral order doctrine" as a narrow exception to the finality requirement to meet special circumstances. For it to apply an order must: first, "conclusively determine the disputed question"; second, "resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action"; and third, "be effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 468, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 2458, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978). We believe the order here meets these conditions.

Judge McAvoy's order conclusively determined the disputed question--whether settlement was reached. The order clearly was made with the expectation that it would be the "final word on the subject addressed." Moses H. Cone Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12-13 n. 14, 103 S.Ct. 927, 935-936 n. 14, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983).

It also resolved an important issue completely separate from the merits of Janneh's employment discrimination action.

Page 435

Judge McAvoy's ruling that a settlement was never reached is "important" because the order involves the "deprivation of significant rights," Cullen v. N.Y. State Civil Serv. Comm'n, 566 F.2d 846, 848 (2d Cir.1977), namely, GAF's bargained-for right to avoid trial by enforcing the settlement agreement. 2 That right implicates our nation's strong judicial and public policies favoring...

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62 practice notes
  • Hughes v. Lillian Goldman Family, LLC, No. 00 CIV. 2388(JGK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 25, 2001
    ...Under New York Law, "[a] settlement is a contract, and once entered into is binding and conclusive." Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432, 436 (2d Cir. 1989). "Settlement agreements are strongly favored in New York and may not be lightly cast aside. Afterthought or change of min......
  • In re Del-Val Financial Corp. Sec. Litigation, Master No. MDL 872.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 10, 1994
    ...Partial Settlement Agreement "A settlement is a contract, and once entered into is binding and conclusive." Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432, 436 (2d Cir.1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 865, 111 S.Ct. 177, 112 L.Ed.2d 141 (1990). If the terms of the settlement agreement govern the ......
  • McEnany v. West Delaware County Com. School Dist., No. C 92-2004.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 4, 1994
    ...on the plaintiff's allegations. We cannot say that this action constituted an abuse of discretion. Id. at 1157-58. In Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432 (2d Cir.1989), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld settlement on the ground that the plaintiff's attorney had apparent authority to ......
  • Forbus v. Sears Roebuck & Co., Nos. 91-7358
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • April 20, 1992
    ...that it had jurisdiction to review an order denying a defendant's motion to enforce a settlement agreement. See Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432, 434-35 (2d Cir.1989), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 177, 112 L.Ed.2d 141 (1990). The Supreme Court has held that the deprivation of a r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
62 cases
  • Hughes v. Lillian Goldman Family, LLC, No. 00 CIV. 2388(JGK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 25, 2001
    ...Under New York Law, "[a] settlement is a contract, and once entered into is binding and conclusive." Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432, 436 (2d Cir. 1989). "Settlement agreements are strongly favored in New York and may not be lightly cast aside. Afterthought or change of min......
  • In re Del-Val Financial Corp. Sec. Litigation, Master No. MDL 872.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 10, 1994
    ...Partial Settlement Agreement "A settlement is a contract, and once entered into is binding and conclusive." Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432, 436 (2d Cir.1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 865, 111 S.Ct. 177, 112 L.Ed.2d 141 (1990). If the terms of the settlement agreement govern the ......
  • McEnany v. West Delaware County Com. School Dist., No. C 92-2004.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 4, 1994
    ...on the plaintiff's allegations. We cannot say that this action constituted an abuse of discretion. Id. at 1157-58. In Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432 (2d Cir.1989), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld settlement on the ground that the plaintiff's attorney had apparent authority to ......
  • Forbus v. Sears Roebuck & Co., Nos. 91-7358
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • April 20, 1992
    ...that it had jurisdiction to review an order denying a defendant's motion to enforce a settlement agreement. See Janneh v. GAF Corp., 887 F.2d 432, 434-35 (2d Cir.1989), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 177, 112 L.Ed.2d 141 (1990). The Supreme Court has held that the deprivation of a r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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