By Minh N. Vu

United States District Judge Virginia Covington of the Middle District of Florida recently held that serial plaintiffs (Denise Payne and Access for the Disabled) who had reached a voluntary settlement with the defendant in an ADA Title III case were not entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs because the court neither retained jurisdiction of the case to enforce the settlement agreement nor incorporated the terms of the settlement into the order of dismissal. 

The parties had settled the injunctive relief portion of the case in mediation, then filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the case with prejudice. In the stipulation they requested that the court retain jurisdiction to enforce the agreement and determine the fees and costs to be awarded to the plaintiffs.  The court sua sponte declined to retain jurisdiction to enforce the agreement.  Defendant then opposed the plaintiffs’ motion for more than $34,000 in fees and costs on the theory that the plaintiffs were not  “prevailing” parties or their “functional equivalent” under Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedents.  The court agreed and denied the plaintiffs’ motion.  These plaintiffs had suffered a similar fate in another lawsuit filed in the same court in 2007.  A copy of the order can be viewed here.