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Grace v. Grace

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 29, 2016

TIM GRACE
v.
JEANNA GRACE D/B/A GRACE TRUCKING

          Session Date: October 26, 2016 [1]

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Decatur County No. 12-CV-14 Charles C. McGinley, Judge

          The plaintiff in a breach of contract action filed a motion to enforce a settlement agreement allegedly agreed to by the defendant. The defendant argued that there was no acceptance of the plaintiff's settlement offer; rather, the defendant contended that she responded to the plaintiff's offer with a counter-offer, which she revoked prior to its acceptance. The trial court found that the parties had entered into an enforceable settlement agreement but denied the plaintiff's request for attorney's fees. Discerning no error, we affirm.

          Samuel W. Hinson, Lexington, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeanna Grace d/b/a Grace Trucking.

          Ricky L. Wood, Parsons, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tim Grace.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Arnold B. Goldin and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE

         Background

         On June 8, 2012, Plaintiff/Appellee Tim Grace ("Appellee") filed a lawsuit against Defendant/Appellant Jeanna Grace d/b/a Grace Trucking ("Appellant") for breach of contract. The complaint alleged that the parties entered into a contract in which Appellant agreed to purchase a tractor from Appellee. According to the complaint, the tractor eventually "became disabled" in Wyoming, and Appellant refused to transport the tractor back to Tennessee. Thereafter, Appellant allegedly failed to make payments on the tractor as required by the parties' contract. Appellee was eventually able to transport the tractor back to Tennessee, and he then filed his complaint to recover his expenses and the depreciated value of the tractor due to Appellant's alleged failure to maintain the tractor in proper condition. In his complaint, Appellee sought $31, 096.73 in damages, plus interest, storage expenses, attorney's fees, and costs. Appellee later amended his complaint to clarify his allegations.

         Appellant filed an answer and counter-complaint on July 16, 2012. Therein, Appellant alleged that the tractor had mechanical defects that were not disclosed at the time of the parties' contract. Accordingly, Appellant alleged that she was required to expend funds to make the tractor "road ready, " amounting to a total of $74, 009.30. In addition, Appellant alleged that she had overpaid under the contract's terms, bringing the total requested damages to $99, 476.30. On August 27, 2012, Appellee filed an answer to the counter-complaint, denying the material allegations contained therein and raising several affirmative defenses.

         The matter was set for trial on August 1, 2013, but was continued in order to allow the parties to engage in court-ordered mediation. Thereafter, the parties unsuccessfully mediated the case. On March, 24, 2015, Appellant's counsel filed a motion to withdraw, which was granted by order of April 30, 2015. Eventually, Appellant obtained new counsel, Samuel W. Hinson, who filed a notice of appearance on October 29, 2015.

         On February 16, 2016, Appellee filed a motion to enforce a settlement agreement allegedly entered into by the parties. The motion contained the following allegations:

1. On or about September 10, 2015, Ryan M. Hagenbrok, attorney in Savannah, Tennessee contacted [Appellee's] attorney to discuss settlement of the above case on behalf of [Appellant].[2]
2. Telephone conversations were exchanged and letters of offers and counteroffers were exchanged in effort to work out a compromised settlement and dismissal of lawsuit.
3.On September 10, 2015, a letter was e-mailed to [Attorney] Hagenbrok offering to settle, which attorney indicated was accepted by Defendant pursuant to a telephone call from [A]ttorney Hagenbrok with instructions for [Appellant's] attorney to prepare an Agreed Order of Dismissal with the terms of agreement. Attorney Hagenbrok stated that he did not represent [Appellant], but was conveying offer and acceptance and that the Order should not have his signature. . . .
4. Attorney for [Appellee], prepared the Agreed Order for [Appellant] to sign and she was to tender the settlement check at the office of [Appellee's] attorney. . . .
5. [Appellant] in fact did show up at [Appellee's] attorney's office and requested that one item be added to the Order "dismissed with prejudice[."] The Order was corrected and [Appellant] said ...

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