United States District Court, D. Kansas
SUSAN M. MILES, Plaintiff,
UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT 500, KANSAS CITY, KANSAS, and VALERIE CASTILLO, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree, United States District Judge.
case concerns whether a separation agreement and mutual
release signed by plaintiff Susan M. Miles and defendant
Unified School District No. 500, Kansas City, Kansas
(“the District”), operates as a complete defense
to plaintiff's claims against the District and defendant
Miles is a former teacher in one of the District's
schools. Her Complaint asserts employment claims against the
District and defendant Valerie Castillo under the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12101-12213; Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654; and
Employment Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461. Doc.
1 at 8-15. Ms. Miles's Complaint also asserts a
retaliatory discharge claim under Kansas common law.
Id. at 12-13.
21, 2018, the District filed a Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order/Injunction and Stay of Proceedings. Doc.
20. The District's motion asserts that Ms. Miles released
all of her employment claims when she signed a separation
agreement and mutual release (“the Agreement”).
The court-after conferring with the parties-concluded the
enforceability of the Agreement was a threshold issue
warranting partial discovery, a separate trial, and a stay of
all other case proceedings. Doc. 46 at 2.
March 27, 2019, the court conducted a bench trial on the
issue. Doc. 59. And, on April 5, 2019, the parties submitted
their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Docs.
61-62. The court, Ms. Miles contends, should not enforce the
Agreement because she did not enter into the Agreement
knowingly and voluntarily due to fraud, duress, and lack of
mental capacity. Also, she argues that-under the totality of
the circumstances-she did not waive her federal employment
claims. After reviewing the evidence presented at trial and
the parties' filings, the court concludes Ms. Miles and
the District entered into an enforceable Agreement.
an action tried on the facts without a jury . . ., the court
must find the facts specifically and state its conclusions of
law separately.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a)(1). While this rule
“does not require inordinately detailed findings,
” the court must provide enough detail to
“indicate the factual basis for the ultimate
conclusion.” Colo. Flying Acad., Inc. v. United
States, 724 F.2d 871, 878 (10th Cir. 1984) (quoting
Kelley v. Everglades Drainage Dist., 319 U.S. 415,
422 (1943)); see also OCI Wyo., L.P. v. PacifiCorp,
479 F.3d 1199, 1204-05 (10th Cir. 2007) (holding that a
district court failed to satisfy its duty under Rule 52(a) to
set out facts supporting its verdict).
Findings of Facts
Miles is a former teacher for the District. On April 8, 2017,
Ms. Miles fell at work. She suffered numerous injuries,
including post-concussive syndrome and occipital neuralgia.
Ms. Miles hired attorney Kathleen Cossairt and filed a
worker's compensation claim against the District. And,
Ms. Miles received medical treatment from the District's
worker's compensation health care provider through April
August 9, 2016, to November 2, 2016, Ms. Miles was on FMLA
leave. As part of her worker's compensation claim, Ms.
Miles began receiving Temporary Total Disability
(“TDD”) benefits from the District in October
2016. But, before Ms. Miles received any TDD benefits, she
received four paychecks from the District. Ms. Miles
suspected-from the first payment on August 15, 2016-that the
payments were made in error because FMLA leave is unpaid. On
August 23, 2016, Ms. Miles sent an email to Ms. Cossairt
stating, “I'm almost sure the paycheck I got on
August 15 was in error. Not sure how to proceed from
here.” Pl.'s Ex. 23 at 2. On August 25, 2016, Ms.
Miles sent an email to Jania Motley, a District employee. Ms.
Miles explained that she had received a paycheck covering the
August 1-15, 2016, pay period. Ms. Miles wondered if the
payment was correct, or, if paid in error, how the error
would be corrected. Pl.'s Ex. 26. Ms. Miles then used the
funds paid by the District to pay her bills and living
October 26, 2016, Fred Greenbaum-an attorney for the
District-sent Ms. Cossairt a letter. The letter stated:
Please be advised your client received her full salary while
she was not working and receiving temporary total disability
benefits for pay periods of August 15, August 31, September
15, and September 30, 2016. The payments were $2, 419.67,
which totals $9, 678.68. We will need to receive credit for
the payments if and when we resolve this matter. Please feel
free to contact me with any questions.
Pl.'s Ex. 25 at 1.
October 31, 2016, Ms. Cossairt responded to Mr. Greenbaum in
an email. Ms. Cossairt stated,
I have reviewed your letter dated 10-26-16 regarding the
school district's overpayment of wages. I only represent
Ms. Miles in her workers compensation case and this is
related to other employer/employee legal issues. Please
advise your client that Ms. Miles is not
represented by me in any other matters other than her work
comp case. Evidently, they are refusing to
discuss this matter and other employer/employee issues with
her directly, such as insurance coverage due to being
informed of my representation. This is not the case.
Def.'s Ex. 100.
November 16, 2016, Greg Goheen-another lawyer representing
the District-sent Ms. Miles a demand letter. After explaining
that Ms. Miles had received an overpayment of $9, 678.68, Mr.
Goheen requested payment within 10 days. Def.'s Ex. 101.
Mr. Goheen wrote, “Should you fail to pay the above
amount, a recommendation for termination of your teaching
contract will be made and legal proceedings may be initiated
against you.” Id.
Cossairt spoke with Mr. Goheen on November 21, 2016, about
the demand letter. Ms. Cossairt informed Ms. Miles that,
“Mr. Goheen is considering our call a timely
response.” Ms. Cossairt then told Ms. Miles that Mr.
Goheen had extended the deadline to December 30, 2016, to
repay the $9, 678.68. At trial, Mr. Goheen testified that the
deadline was important to the District because of quarterly
November 2016, Ms. Miles applied for a loan to repay the
District. A month later, on December 15 and 22, 2016, Ms.
Cossairt sent emails to Mr. Goheen and Mr. Greenbaum. Ms.
Cossairt informed them that Ms. Miles was in the process of
securing a loan.
December 28, 2016, Ms. Cossairt spoke with Robert Turner, a
third lawyer who represented the District. This same day, Ms.
Cossairt responded in an email to Mr. Turner and Mr. Goheen
stating, “I tried calling and emailing my client with
no response. Please contact me after ...