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Alston v. Pritchett

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 26, 2015

ESHED J.L. ALSTON, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
GWEN J. PRITCHETT, Defendant Below, Appellee.

Submitted: January 9, 2015

Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County C.A. No. N12C-11-086

Before STRINE, Chief Justice, HOLLAND, and VALIHURA, Justices.

ORDER

Karen L. Valihura, Justice

This 26th day of February, 2015, upon consideration of the briefs and record on appeal as well as the appellant's motion to stay, it appears to the Court that:

(1) The plaintiff-appellant, EShed Alston, filed this pro se appeal from a June 19, 2014 Superior Court order granting a motion to enforce a settlement ("Motion to Enforce Settlement"). On January 8, 2015, Alston moved for an extension or stay of the submission of this matter for decision on the briefs as of January 9, 2015. We deny the motion to stay and conclude there is no merit to the appeal.

(2) On November 12, 2012, Alston filed a complaint in the Superior Court against the defendant-appellee, Gwen Pritchett. Alston alleged that he suffered injuries in a car accident caused by Pritchett's negligence and sought compensatory damages. Alston was represented by counsel in the Superior Court proceedings.

(3) A mediation was held on April 4, 2014. During the mediation, the parties executed a settlement agreement ("Settlement Agreement"). The Settlement Agreement provided that, in exchange for an executed release and stipulation of dismissal of all claims with prejudice, Pritchett would pay Alston $17, 800. The Settlement Agreement also provided that Alston was responsible for all outstanding medical expenses and/or health insurance liens, exclusive of personal injury protection.

(4) In an affidavit dated April 5, 2014, Alston informed his counsel that he rejected the signed settlement agreement based on his concerns, which were raised at the mediation, about insurance companies making lower settlement offers to minorities and the Superior Court judge presiding over his case. Pritchett's counsel provided Alston's counsel with a release for Alston to execute and a check for $17, 800. Alston's counsel informed Pritchett's counsel of Alston's unwillingness to proceed with the settlement.

(5) On May 14, 2014, Alston's counsel informed the Superior Court that Alston was unwilling to proceed with the Settlement Agreement. Pritchett filed the Motion to Enforce Settlement on June 2, 2014. Exhibits to the motion included Alston's April 5, 2014 affidavit and another Alston affidavit dated April 9, 2014. In the April 9, 2014 affidavit, Alston expressed displeasure with his counsel's use of his former name in pleadings filed in the Superior Court.

(6) The Superior Court held a hearing on the Motion to Enforce Settlement on June 19, 2014.[1] Alston attended the hearing. The Superior Court judge indicated that she had read the parties' papers, including the Motion to Enforce Settlement and Alston's affidavits, and asked Alston if there was anything else he wished to add to the written submissions. Alston submitted a document regarding his complaints about his counsel.

(7) In response to the Superior Court's inquiries, Alston stated that he had attended the mediation with counsel and that his signature appeared on the Settlement Agreement. Alston also stated that what occurred was reflected in his submissions and that he stood on his briefs. The Superior Court took the matter under advisement. Later that day the Superior Court granted the Motion to Enforce Settlement. This appeal followed.

(8) Briefing was completed on November 18, 2014 and this matter was submitted for decision on the briefs as of January 9, 2015. On January 8, 2015, Alston filed an amended motion for an extension or stay of the proceedings and another document in support of the motion for an extension or stay of the proceedings.[2] The grounds for an extension or stay of the submission of this matter for decision are unclear, but Alston seems to contend that an extension or stay is necessary due to alleged misconduct by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and the administration of Governor Markell. We have considered Alston's contentions and see no basis for extending or staying submission of this matter for decision.

(9) On appeal, Alston's arguments regarding the Superior Court's order granting the Motion to Enforce Settlement may be summarized as follows: (i) he timely rejected the Settlement Agreement; (ii) his former counsel was ineffective and engaged in misconduct; (iii) the Superior Court ignored his documents, which were superior to the Motion to Enforce Settlement filed by Pritchett's counsel; (iv) the Settlement Agreement was the result of fraud, duress, and coercion; and (v) he ...


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