Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

If Defendant Stipulates to a Judgment for All Relief Plaintiff Seeks, Plaintiff Is Not Entitled to Trial on Issues That Wouldn’t Affect the Judgment — No Need to Use Rule 68 — Defendant May Disclaim Liability

Rienzi & Sons, Inc. v. N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alimentari S.P.A., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19358 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2015):

The issue before the Court is whether entry of judgment is appropriate where a defendant has consented to judgment for all [*2]  the relief the plaintiff seeks at trial, but the plaintiff insists upon a trial. ***

On September 3, 2014, Puglisi wrote to the Court noting that, in light of the [Summary Judgment] Order, the only claim remaining to be tried in this matter is Rienzi's Third Cause of Action, which alleges that Rienzi suffered $126,200 in damages when Puglisi allegedly delivered spoiled pasta. Puglisi, to avoid the time and expense of a trial on that lone claim, is willing to stipulate to the entry of a judgment ("Proposed Judgment") in which Puglisi's damages on its Counterclaim are offset by the full amount of the damages that Rienzi seeks in its Third Cause of Action. (See Letter from Puglisi ("Puglisi Letter"), Docket Entry No. 90.) In other words, Puglisi desires to stipulate to all of the relief that Rienzi seeks in its Third Cause of Action.

Rienzi opposes the Proposed Judgment because: (1) Puglisi's letter is procedurally defective, because Puglisi should have formulated it as a Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 offer,2 or some other formal motion, as opposed to a stipulation; ***.

2   Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 provides, "Making an Offer; Judgment on an Accepted Offer. At least 14 days before the date set for trial, a party defending against a claim may serve on an opposing party an offer to allow judgment on specified terms, with the costs then accrued. If, within 14 days after being served, the opposing party serves written notice accepting the offer, either party may then file the offer and notice of acceptance, plus proof of service. The clerk must then enter judgment."


I. Puglisi's Proposed Judgment is Not Procedurally Improper

There is [*6]  no requirement that Puglisi make its motion pursuant to Rule 68 or any other Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. In ABN Amro Verzekeringen BV v. Geologistics Americas, Inc., the Second Circuit held that, where a defendant consents to the entry of judgment awarding plaintiff the entirety of the relief that the plaintiff could win at trial, it is appropriate for the court to enter judgment in that amount against the defendant, even where the plaintiff insists upon a trial. See 485 F.3d 85, 93-94 (2d Cir. 2007) ("Where a defendant has consented to judgment for all the relief the plaintiff can win at trial (according to the trial court's determination), the defendant's refusal to admit fault does not justify a trial to settle questions which can have no effect on the judgment."). In ABN Amro, the plaintiff's suit was only for money damages and the district court had ruled as a matter of law that the plaintiff could not recover more than a certain amount from each defendant. When each defendant tendered that amount, the district court held that nothing of significance remained to adjudicate. The Second Circuit thus found that the district court had correctly rejected plaintiff's claim that the court should have mandated trial on [*7]  an issue that had no practical consequence. Similarly, in Husain v. Springer, 691 F. Supp. 2d 339, 341-43 (E.D.N.Y. 2009), the court applied ABN Amro and granted the defendant's motion for entry of judgment against herself. The district court agreed with defendant's argument that entry of judgment was appropriate, even without a concession of liability on her part, as her payment of nominal damages would satisfy the single remaining claim of every plaintiff in its entirety.

Moreover, the Husain court concluded that a party stipulating to a judgment need not use any specific procedure. The court noted that, "the issue is academic; when a defendant has clearly given formal consent to the entry of judgment against herself, the precise form of her request is irrelevant. There is no dispute here that defendant consents to a court order awarding plaintiffs" nominal damages." Id. at 341 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Here, Rienzi does not identify any monetary or equitable relief that is seeks from this Court beyond the $126,200 to which Puglisi has stipulated in the Proposed Judgment. Consequently, there is no dispute that Puglisi has consented to the entry of a judgment that awards Rienzi all of the relief that Rienzi seeks, and the procedural [*8]  approach is not determinative. Accordingly, Puglisi's request for entry of the Proposed Judgment is proper.

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