at 3. Freeport thus argued that the court should approve the settlement
agreement and enforce its terms as stated in the record. Id.
acknowledged receipt of Freeport’s motion and allowed Tartaglia to respond as
to why the settlement should not be approved and this case dismissed. On
February 1, 2019, Tartaglia filed a brief response that reiterated that he
would not comply with the settlement terms. Tartaglia cited alleged “fraudulent
criminal activity” that occurred after the agreement was reached on the record.
Complainant’s Response to Order of Acknowledgement, at 2.
that the agreement on the record is valid and should be enforced accordingly. The
Commission and its Judges have the authority to enforce settlement agreements
and to reopen those cases in instances of breach. Morealle v. Veris Gold
USA. Inc., 38 FMSHRC 410, 413 (Mar. 2016); Johnson v. Lamar Mining Co.
et. al., 10 FMSHRC 506, 508-09 (Apr. 1998). In order to approve a
settlement motion, the record must reflect and the Commission should be assured
that the motion in fact represents a genuine agreement between the parties. Tarmann
v. Int’l Salt Co., 12 FMSHRC 1291 (June 1990) (ALJ) (citing Peabody Coal
Co., 8 FMSHRC 1265, 1266 (Sept. 1986)). The validity of a settlement
agreement is generally governed by the applicable contract law of the place
where it was made, in this case Arizona. Golden v. California Emergency
Physician Med. Grp., 782 F.3d 1083, 1086-87 (9th Cir. 2015); United
Commercial Ins. Serv., Inc. v. Paymaster Corp., 962 F.2d 853, 856 (9th
Cir. 1992); Eastern Associated Coal Corp., 19 FMSHRC 659, 659-60 (Mar. 1997)
(ALJ). Under Arizona law, settlement agreements made orally in court are
enforceable. See Robertson v. Alling, 237 Ariz. 345, 346 (2015). The
state requires a valid enforceable contract to consist of an offer, an
acceptance, consideration, and sufficient specification of terms. See, e.g.,
Savoca Masonry Co. v. Homes & Son Const. Co., 112 Ariz. 392, 394
the parties’ agreement on the record constituted a valid settlement contract. The
record unambiguously reflects that Freeport and Tartaglia willingly entered
into an agreement to settle the matter. Freeport offered explicit terms in
exchange for a general and specific release of claims, which shows offer and
consideration. Ex. 1. Tartaglia accepted the offer after a full explanation of
those terms. Id. There is no evidence that Tartaglia misunderstood the
terms of the agreement or declined to accept any of those terms on the record. He
subsequently reviewed and signed a written version of the same agreement. There
is likewise no evidence that Freeport misrepresented or failed to comply with
its responsibilities under the settlement. The parties therefore entered into a
valid and mutual settlement agreement.
did not provide any valid legal justification to void or otherwise set aside the
agreement. Complainant’s allegations of “fraudulent criminal activity” are
vague and unrelated to the specific terms of the settlement agreement and to
the events that prompted his initial section 105(c)(3) complaint. The record on
this matter is closed and the court will not accept new evidence regarding
those allegations. The alleged facts behind Complainant’s allegations are hence
not before the court in any capacity, and the court will not reach those issues
in a decision on the merits.
therefore finds no good cause to set aside the settlement that Freeport and
Tartaglia reached on the record. Valid settlement agreements are binding and must
be fulfilled in good faith. The court will not set aside a settlement or excuse
noncompliance and permit a party to tarnish the integrity of the settlement
process on a whim. Simply because Tartaglia no longer wishes to adhere to the
agreement he made does not mean that he is no longer required to do so.
the Respondent’s motion for approval of the settlement is GRANTED. It is
ORDERED that Freeport and Tartaglia comply with the terms of the settlement
agreement entered into the record, and this case is DISMISSED. The
agreement made on the record is to be placed under seal with the understanding
that it may be subject to review by the Commission.
David P. Simonton
Distribution: (U.S. First Class Mail and e-mail)
Jr., 8340 N. Thornydale Road, #209 Suite 110, Tucson, AZ 85741
White, Benjamin J. Ross, Jackson Kelly, PLLC, 1099 18th Street,
Suite 2150, Denver, CO 80202