Judge Gorton denied Canadian Fish’s motion to set aside Cedar Bay’s voluntary dismissal of the complaint. Canadian Fish was a distributor for Cedar Bay in the United States. The relationship lasted for nine years, when a dispute arose as to Cedar Bay’s pending trademark registrations, leading Cedar Bay to accuse Canadian Fish of false association and false designation of origin for Canadian Fish’s alleged misuse of Cedar Bay’s marks. Canadian Fish promptly countersued for breach of contract and declaratory judgment in Nova Scotia/ The parties mediated the disputes and came to a settlement in January, memorialized in a document titled “Settlement Agreement.” When, days later, Cedar Bay asserted that this document was merely a memorialization of potential points of agreement and not an actual agreement, Canadian Fish moved to enforce the agreement and separately moved to dismiss the complaint in the Massachusetts case. Cedar Bay initially opposed the motion, but shortly thereafter filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, leading to termination of the case by the Court. Canadian Fish, apparently angered by Cedar Bay’s attempted reneging of the agreement, sought to vacate the dismissal so that it could seek a better outcome than the compromise of the settlement agreement. Judge Gorton noted that if a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses a complaint pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1), where no answer or motion for summary judgment has been filed, the Court has no power to condition the dismissal – the plaintiff has an absolute right to dismiss. He rejected Canadian Fish’s assertion that the motion to enforce the settlement agreement was functionally equivalent to a motion for summary judgment; while the summary judgment standard is generally applied to motions to enforce settlement agreements, application of the same standard does not mean that a motion to enforce a settlement agreement is the equivalent to a motion for summary judgment, as this is clearly not contemplated by the plain language of the Rule.
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