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Smith v. Fedor

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

November 22, 2017

Edwin M. Smith, Jr., Appellant,
David Fedor, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2014-001826

          Heard February 7, 2017

         Appeal From Richland County DeAndrea G. Benjamin, Circuit Court Judge

          James R. Gilreath and William Mitchell Hogan, both of The Gilreath Law Firm, PA, of Greenville for Appellant.

          Katherine Carruth Goode, of Winnsboro, for Respondent.

          LOCKEMY, C.J.

         Edwin Smith, Jr. appeals the trial court's order granting David Fedor's motion for relief from judgment, arguing (1) the trial court erred in refusing to consider the confidential settlement agreement in determining whether Fedor satisfied the confession of judgment, (2) the trial court should have considered the merits of Smith's motion for reconsideration even though it was not provided to the court within ten days of filing, and (3) this court should remand the matter to the trial court for denial of the motion for relief from judgment because the confidential settlement agreement is sufficiently clear, explicit, and unambiguous. We affirm.


         In 1998, Smith filed a lawsuit against Fedor, which resulted in a "mediated settlement" in 2002. As part of the settlement, Fedor executed a confession of judgment for $350, 000 plus post-judgment interest to serve as security against the debt owed to Smith; in return, Smith released all claims and dismissed his lawsuit with prejudice. The confession of judgment provided,

5. The indebtedness owed by [Fedor] to [Smith] arose pursuant to a Confidential Settlement Agreement between [Fedor] and [Smith] dated September 17, 2002, in which the lawsuit . . . was settled. . . .
7. [Fedor] hereby authorizes the entry of an Order and judgment against [him, ] and in favor of [Smith, ] in the principal amount of $350, 000, less any payments received by [Smith] from [Fedor] through the date of filing hereof. . . .

         The confession of judgment also stated it "may not be filed" until Fedor defaulted on his obligations "as set forth in the Confidential Settlement Agreement."

         On February 27, 2013, Smith filed the confession of judgment and a partial satisfaction of judgment with the trial court. The partial satisfaction of judgment claimed Fedor paid $335, 000 but still owed $15, 000 pursuant to the confession of judgment. Fedor moved for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5), SCRCP, asserting he had paid Smith more than $350, 000, satisfying the debt. Smith filed a response to Fedor's motion for relief, stating the confidential settlement agreement required Fedor to pay a total sum of $400, 000-$50, 000 up front, followed by annual installment payments of $35, 000 secured by the confession of judgment. Smith contended the $50, 000 initial payment was not included in the $350, 000 debt secured by the confession of judgment, and neither the agreement nor the judgment indicated the initial payment of $50, 000 would be credited toward the $350, 000.

         On August 26, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on Fedor's motion for relief from judgment. At the hearing, both parties agreed Fedor had paid $385, 000 to Smith; the dispute concerned whether Fedor owed Smith an additional $15, 000. Fedor argued the confession of judgment stated only the amount of $350, 000, he had satisfied the judgment, and was not obligated to pay any additional amount. Fedor entered an affidavit into evidence stating he "paid to [Smith] … the sum of $385, 000[, ] that sum being in excess of the sum recited in [Fedor]'s Confession of Judgment and that the Confession of Judgment should be deemed satisfied." Fedor asserted the confession of judgment is final and the parties cannot "inquire behind the confession and seek to now reargue the merits." Smith countered that the parties settled for $400, 000, as provided for by the confidential agreement, and Fedor still owed $15, 000. Smith mentioned an affidavit from James Gilreath that stated the total amount due was $400, 000 including $50, 000 to be paid prior to the signing of the confession of judgment, but the Gilreath Affidavit was never offered or entered into evidence. Smith conceded Fedor had paid $385, 000, but that included the initial $50, 000 payment; thus, Smith maintained Fedor had paid only $335, 000 of the amount secured by the confession of judgment.

         Fedor objected to any introduction or discussion of the confidential settlement agreement, which he said was not in evidence, "full of scratch-overs and strike-throughs, " and "not clear upon its face." Fedor contended "the confession of judgment ended the case" and was "clear and concise on its face" that the amount owed was $350, 000. Smith countered that "the confession of judgment . . . ha[d] to be read in the context of the [four]-page confidential settlement agreement." The trial court requested the parties submit memoranda regarding when ...

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