United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVIDA A. HUDSON, Plaintiff,
AFFINITY HOSPITAL, LLC d/b/a GRANDVIEW MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an employment action wherein Plaintiff Davida A. Hudson
(“Hudson”) asserts Title VII claims for sex
discrimination and retaliation against her former employer
Defendant Affinity Hospital, LLC d/b/a Grandview Medical
Center (“Affinity”). (Doc. 1). The parties have
completed discovery and no dispositive motions have been
21, 2018, Counsel for Defendant Affinity Hospital, LLC,
Attorney Anne Knox Averitt (“Attorney Averitt”),
filed a Joint Status Report. (Doc. 21). The Joint Status
Report stated that the parties had reached a settlement
agreement “last week” and that they were
finalizing paperwork. (Id.). The Joint Status Report
was electronically signed by Attorney Averitt and Counsel for
Plaintiff Davida A. Hudson, Attorney Roderick Cooks
(“Attorney Cooks”), with permission.
(Id.). Upon reviewing the status report, the
undersigned entered an order staying all pending deadlines in
the case and ordering the parties to file another Joint
Status Report by June 22, 2018, if they had not stipulated to
dismissal of the action by that time. (Doc. 22).
22, 2018, Attorney Averitt filed another Joint Status Report
on behalf of the defendant as well as on behalf of counsel
for the plaintiff. (Doc. 23). This Joint Status Report
provided that, on May 11, 2018, counsel for the parties
reached a settlement agreement on behalf of their clients.
(Id. at ¶ 1). Although, the terms and amount of
the settlement agreement were agreed upon and memorialized in
writing via electronic mail correspondence between counsel
for both parties, Hudson refused to sign the settlement
agreement. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3). Counsel for
both parties agreed that a valid and enforceable settlement
agreement was reached and that it was due to be enforced by
the court. (Id. at ¶ 4).
June 22, 2018, Defendant moved for the court to enforce the
May 11, 2018 settlement agreement. (Doc. 24). Counsel for the
plaintiff did not opposed the motion. (See id). The
undersigned set the motion for a hearing, which was held on
July 10, 2018. (Doc. 25). Prior to the hearing the court
received a copy of the settlement agreement and the
attorneys' email correspondence, which it entered into
the record under seal. (See docs. 26 & 28).
During the hearing the court received a copy of the
plaintiff's Professional Service Agreement, signed by
Hudson, which it entered into the record under seal. (Doc.
30-1). After the hearing the court received email
correspondence between Hudson and her attorneys and conducted
an in camera review. (See doc. 29).
law requires that an attorney possess “express, special
authority” to settle a case on behalf of a client. The
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has explained as follows:
An attorney cannot settle a client's action or claim . .
. without authorization from the client ..... The authority
to settle is not incidental, but it is essential that an
attorney have express, special
authority from his client to do so.
Batton v. City of Jasper, 345 Fed. App'x 400,
401-02 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Benitez v. Beck,
872 So.2d 844, 847 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003) (holding that a
judgment entered upon an agreement by the attorney may be set
aside on affirmative proof that the attorney had no right to
consent to its entry)) (emphasis added).
is determined that the attorney had this authority to settle
the case, a settlement agreement entered into by an attorney
cannot be repudiated and will be summarily enforced. Mays
v. LeCraw & Co., Inc., 807 So.2d 551, 544 (Ala. Civ.
App. 2001) (holding that the lower court erred when it did
not enforce a binding settlement agreement memorialized
through letters). In other words, when there is a final
settlement, such settlement is binding and may only be opened
for fraud, accident, or mistake. Id.; see e.g.,
Harris v. Preskitt, 911 So.2d 8 (Ala. Civ. App. 2005).
for both parties assert that a valid and enforceable
settlement agreement was reached on May 11, 2018, and that it
is now due to be enforced by the court. They informed the
court of this settlement agreement on May 21, 2018, in their
joint status report, where they stated that they were
finalizing paperwork and working to execute the agreement.
(Doc. 21). This is confirmed by emails exchanged between
Attorney Averitt and Attorney Cooks. (Doc. 28-2 at 2-3;
see doc. 28-1, settlement agreement).
hearing it became clear that the issue here is whether
Attorney Cooks had the requisite “express, special
authority” to settle the case on Hudson's behalf
for the amount and with the terms in the settlement
evidence presented in this case shows that Attorney Cooks had
the “express, special authority” required under
Alabama law to bind Hudson to the settlement agreement. When
Hudson entered into the Professional Services Agreement with
her attorneys she agreed that her “Attorneys shall have
full power and authority to settle, compromise or take such
action as Attorneys might deem proper for the best interest
of the client . . . .” (Doc. 30-1 at 2). Although she
now claims she did not authorize her attorneys to settle the
case for on May 10, 2018, the evidence contradicts her
version of events. Both of her attorneys, who are officers of
the court, have represented that she gave Attorney Cooks
authority to settle her case for a specific amount during the
May 10, 2018 telephone call. This is memorialized in one of