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Schuler v. University of Denver

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 15, 2014

STEPHEN SCHULER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S FIRST AND THIRD COUNTERCLAIMS AND PLAINTIFF'S SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF

RICHARD P. MATSCH, Senior District Judge.

In this civil action, Plaintiff Stephen Schuler, a former college student at the University of Denver ("DU"), asserts three claims for relief against DU: (1) disability discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (2) disability discrimination under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq.; and (3) retaliation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 34 C.F.R. § 100.7(e). [Doc. 1 at 17-21.]

DU brings four counterclaims against Schuler. [Doc. 5 at 9-12.] DU's First and Third Counterclaims seek a declaratory judgment that Schuler and DU reached an enforceable settlement agreement that released Schuler's claims against DU, and recovery for Schuler's alleged breach of the settlement agreement, respectively. [Id.] Schuler has moved for summary judgment on DU's First and Third Counterclaims [Doc. 26], arguing that the parties never reached a "meeting of the minds" on the terms of a settlement agreement. DU has moved for summary judgment on its First and Third Counterclaims, as well, and on that basis, seeks dismissal of Schuler's lawsuit and an award of attorney's fees and costs it incurred in defending this case. [Doc. 39 at 27-32.]

Schuler's retaliation and discrimination claims are based on conduct that occurred from the time he enrolled at DU in the Fall of 2007 until May of 2012. It is not necessary to consider all of the events at this time. For present purposes, the following undisputed facts are material to the question of whether the parties reached an enforceable settlement agreement.

In June 2012, Schuler began calling the DU Bursar's Office with questions about the holds on his student account and indicated he wanted a copy of his official transcript. Schuler also retained Louise Bouzari as his attorney around that time. [Doc. 39, Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("SOF") ¶¶ 123-24.]

In July, August, and September 2012, Jim Goh, counsel for DU, and Louise Bouzari exchanged e-mails regarding a settlement of Schuler's potential claims against DU. On July 18, 2012, Bouzari made the following "formal offer to DU" on Schuler's behalf:

In exchange for mutual releases related to Mr. Schuler's enrollment at DU and Mr. Schuler's agreement not to seek readmittance, DU will: (1) provide Mr. Schuler with a final transcript; and (2) forgive all debt Mr. Schuler owes DU or its schools or subdivisions, whether arising from housing, tuition, fees, or other sources of indebtedness. Mr. Schuler will be responsible for repaying any student loans he may have and each party will bear their own attorney fees.

[Doc. 26-1 at 2.] Bouzari followed up with Goh on August 6, and Goh said he was still waiting to hear from DU as to whether it would accept Schuler's offer. [Id. at 6.] On August 31, 2012, Bouzari e-mailed Goh requesting that DU remove a class grade from Schuler's transcript as a "final requested settlement term." [Id. at 5.] Bouzari stated that she and Schuler "[hoped] to wrap up the settlement as soon as possible." [Id.] Goh responded that he would check on getting the grade removed, but he was "not optimistic" DU would grant the request. [Id. at 4.]

Bouzari e-mailed Goh on September 17, 2012, stating:

Mr. Schuler is applying to other universities for spring 2013 admission, and he needs an official transcript by September 24, 2012. Even if we have not finalized a settlement agreement by then, do you think you could facilitate releasing the hold on his official transcript by then? I have made such arrangements with CU before under similar circumstances. This is especially important in order to mitigate Mr. Schuler's ongoing damages.

[Id. at 3.] Four days later, Goh e-mailed Bouzari a draft of a proposed settlement agreement. The draft stated:

DU agrees to forgive Schuler's indebtedness to the University in the amount of $9, 027.49, reflecting unpaid rents. Such debt forgiveness does not apply to any educational loans owed by Schuler to DU or any third parties. DU further agrees to release the hold on Schuler's student records and transcript.
...
Schuler... hereby fully and finally waives, discharges, and unconditionally and irrevocably releases DU... from any and all claims and rights of any kind... that Schuler may have through the time of the his execution of this Agreement... including, but not limited to, claims arising out of or in any way ...

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