MICHAEL TODD CROWLEY AND EDWARD BLACKMON, JR.
ROBERT G. GERMANY AND PITTMAN, GERMANY, ROBERTS & WELSH, LLP ASHLEY DEJANAE STOWERS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARY OF RODNEY SANDRELL STOWERS AND DELIE M. SHEPARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND ASADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF RODNEY SANDRELL STOWERS, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF RODNEY SANDRELL STOWERS
ROBERT G. GERMANY, BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT/EMPLOYEE/REPRESENTATIVE /PARTNER ASSOCIATE/OFFICE/DIRECTOR OF PITTMAN, GERMANY, ROBERTS & WELSH, L.L.P. AND PITTMAN, GERMANY, ROBERTS & WELSH, L.L.P.
OF JUDGMENT: 09/27/2017
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. STEPHEN B. SIMPSON
COURT ATTORNEYS: MICHAEL TODD CROWLEY FRED KRUTZ, III DANIEL
J. MULHOLLAND R. DAVID KAUFMAN JOSEPH ANTHONY SCLAFANI STUART
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: MICHAEL TODD CROWLEY EDWARD
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: DANIEL J. MULHOLLAND FRED KRUTZ
RANDOLPH, P.J., KING AND ISHEE, JJ.
This case concerns release language in a settlement
agreement. We must determine if the circuit court abused its
discretion by enforcing a settlement agreement using specific
release language that required the Plaintiffs'
attorneys' signatures. Finding that the circuit court
abused its discretion, we reverse the Order Enforcing
Settlement Agreement and Judgment of Dismissal and remand the
case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case began as a legal malpractice action by Delie
Shepard and Ashley Stowers (the Plaintiffs) against Robert
Germany and his law firm, Pittman, Germany, Roberts &
Welsh, LLP. Shepard and Stowers were represented by Michael
Crowley and Edward Blackmon; Germany and his firm were
represented by Fred Krutz and Daniel Mulholland. After
several years of litigation and mediation, the parties
reached a settlement. In the settlement, Shepard and Stowers
agreed "to execute a Full and Complete Release."
The parties agreed to and memorialized the essential terms of
their settlement in an email exchange. Although the essential
terms were agreed upon, Crowley's email to Krutz did not
specify the precise language of the "Full and Complete
The proposed release required signatures from Crowley and
Blackmon, the Plaintiffs' attorneys. The specific
language in the proposed release was "Agreed to and
Approved By . . . ." After additional discussion, this
language was eventually changed to "Approved By Michael
Todd Crowley And Edward Blackmon Jr. In Their Capacity As
Lawyers For [the Plaintiffs]." Crowley and Blackmon
still refused to sign the releases because they were
concerned that signing such a release would have been
interpreted to mean that they were parties to the settlement
agreement, resulting in personal liability and a potential
obligation to indemnify.
¶4. After further exchanges, Shepard and Stowers
proposed alternative releases, reflecting Crowley's and
Blackmon's willingness to sign the releases as to the
form but not the content of the releases. Germany rejected
the alternative releases, insisting on the language proposed
by his attorneys.
Then, the parties returned to court. Believing that the
parties had a meeting of the minds on the essential terms of
the settlement in the email exchange, Germany moved to
enforce the settlement agreement using the release language
proposed by his attorneys. Shepard and Stowers later filed
their own motion to enforce the settlement agreement using
their proposed releases. Before Shepard and Stowers filed
their motion, the circuit court held a hearing on
Germany's motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The
circuit court entered an Order Enforcing Settlement Agreement
and Judgment of Dismissal.
¶6. Shepard and Stowers then filed a motion for findings
of fact and conclusions of law under Mississippi Rule of
Civil Procedure 52(a). The circuit court denied the motion.
Unsatisfied with the order enforcing the settlement
agreement, which required their signature on the releases,
Crowley and Blackmon filed an emergency petition for writ of
prohibition with this Court, which was ordered to be treated
as a Notice of Appeal. They later filed a notice of appeal in
the underlying case on behalf of Shepard and Stowers. ...