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Roman-Oliveras v. P.R. Elec. Power Auth. (PREPA)

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 5, 2015

HÉCTOR LUIS ROMÁN-OLIVERAS; SONIA MARÍA YAMA-RUIZ; FELICITA OLIVERAS-LÓPEZ, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
PUERTO RICO ELECTRIC POWER AUTHORITY (PREPA); JAMES VÉLEZ; JULIO RENTA, Defendants, Appellees

Page 84

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí , Jr., U.S. District Judge.

Nicolás Nogueras-Cartagena and Nogueras Law & Associates on brief for appellants.

Margarita Mercado-Echegaray, Solicitor General, and Rosa Elena Pérez Acosta, Assistant Solicitor General, on brief for appellees.

Before Thompson, Lipez, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 85

BARRON, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises from a suit that Héctor Luis Román-Oliveras, along with his wife and mother, brought against his former employer, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), and two individual supervisors. The potential obstacle that the plaintiffs must overcome to keep their suit alive arises from the settlement negotiations that took place in the summer of 2012. Because we agree with the District Court that these talks produced a binding oral settlement agreement that the District Court had jurisdiction to enforce, we agree with the District Court that this suit cannot continue. We thus affirm the judgment below that dismissed the suit on the basis of that settlement agreement.

I.

Román worked for PREPA for over twenty years. In March of 2006, however, he was suspended from his job, and in February of 2007, he was then dismissed. Román along with his wife and mother responded by filing this suit against PREPA, his supervisor, and the plant superintendent under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 - 12213; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § § 2000e - 2000e-17; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and several Puerto Rico laws. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had unlawfully targeted Román due to his medical disability and his union activities.

The District Court initially dismissed the complaint in its entirety. But on appeal, this Court partially reversed and reinstated the plaintiffs' ADA claim against PREPA and their claims under Puerto Rico law against all defendants. See Román-Oliveras v. P.R. Elec. Power Auth., 655 F.3d 43, 47 (1st Cir. 2011). On remand, the parties then held settlement negotiations. Those negotiations took place in Judge Aida M. Delgado-Colón's chambers in July of 2012.[1] Judge Delgado-Colón later memorialized an account of the discussions in a minute entry in December of 2012. In that entry, Judge Delgado-Colón recounted that the parties had reached a binding oral settlement agreement during the negotiations, and that all that remained was the submission of a final written settlement agreement. The parties, however, did not ultimately submit a final written agreement.[2]

Page 86

In May of 2013, Judge Delgado-Colón recused herself from the case, which was then transferred to Judge Gustavo Gelpí . Soon thereafter, Judge Gelpí ordered the plaintiffs to show cause why he could not enforce the oral settlement agreement that Judge Delgado-Colón had found the parties had reached. The plaintiffs responded to that order by arguing that " an agreement had never been reached." The plaintiffs did not ask, however, for an evidentiary hearing on the existence of such an agreement. The plaintiffs also argued in response to the show cause order that, assuming such a settlement had been reached, the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enforce it in light of Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994).

Judge Gelpí rejected the plaintiffs' arguments and dismissed the case with prejudice. He then ordered that PREPA deposit the settlement amount with ...


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