When Is It Too Late To Retract A Settlement In Federal Court?

We take great pride the legal research skills of our attorneys. Whether it is staying focused on the changes and trends in federal or state law, or simply unique and unusual, even humorous, cases, the attorneys at the Sullivan Law Office try to stay informed of the legal news in our neighboring states which together make up the Federal Sixth Circuit. These states include our home state, Kentucky, along with Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan.

In a recent Sixth Circuit case, the Court affirmed the judgment of a lower court which approved the settlement agreement between a former public employee and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (“RTA”). The case, Cummings v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, is interesting because it involved the following issues:

  • Is it possible to undo a settlement agreement when one party, after the fact, rethinks the terms and finds an error or mistake?
  • Is it possible if the terms are not equitable?
  • Does Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow vacating a judgment in this circumstance under the paragraph, “any other reason that justifies relief?” (Civil Rule 60(b)(1) allows a party to file a motion to vacate a judgment in the event of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect” filed within one year of the judgment.)

The plaintiff, Noel Cummings, sued RTA alleging that she was paid less than her male co-workers and passed over for promotion after complaining about the difference in wages. In February 2015, the parties reached a settlement with RTA agreeing to pay Cummings both a lump sum and monthly payments through the end of January 2017. Cummings believed she would then be eligible for retirement at this point in time. Cummings later argued to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the primary reason she settled the case was to obtain thirty years of retirement credit.

But then over a year later, Cummings moved to vacate the judgment after she realized that the state retirement system did not count her credits under the settlement agreement because the payments were not “earnable salary” under state law. The court rejected her motion as time-barred under Civil Rule 60(b)(1). Sadly, it was too late for the court to remedy her mistake.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, stating:”A settlor’s remorse cannot alone justify abandoning such judgments,” the court said unanimously. “Else, the key virtue of settling cases –letting the parties move on after they each get some of what they want — would be lost.”

Judge Jeffrey Sutton said: “There is a deeply embedded judicial and legislative policy in favor of keeping final judgments final.” “That is especially true for settlement agreements.”

Disability claimants must act without delay since there are time limits throughout the benefit application process. As the plaintiff, in this case, learned, when it comes to the legal system, there is only so much time available to act, especially to remedy a mistake or error. In this case, there was one year to correct the error at hand.

An experienced disability attorney may ensure that any applicant fully takes advantage of the rules intended to help individuals obtain eligibility for disability benefits. Do you have a potential disability claim? To improve your chances of meeting all of the requirements for the allowance of a claim (and avoiding the denial of benefits), retain the services of a qualified Kentucky Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so you have absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.When Is It Too Late To Retract A Settlement In Federal Court?

2017-10-03T15:51:54+00:00