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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Plaintiff-appellant, James Brad Steverson, appeals the district court’s denial of his Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion. Following an accident aboard a drilling rig, Steverson filed suit against the employer, GlobalSantaFe. Steverson’s attorney requested a settlement conference, which was held before a magistrate judge on Aug. 5, 2005. After multiple offers and demands, the attorneys announced a settlement to the court. GlobalSantaFe agreed to pay $350,000, which included paying $50,000 for an annuity that would pay Steverson $150,000 at the age of 55. Magistrate Judge Walker entered an order of dismissal. However, no record of the settlement was taken by the court. Eight days later, Steverson notified his attorney that she was terminated and that he “rejected the offer of settlement.” After GlobalSantaFe was notified that Steverson would not sign the release, it filed a motion to compel settlement. Steverson filed a reply to the motion to compel, a motion pursuant to Rule 60(b) to vacate the judgment of dismissal and a motion for an evidentiary hearing. Steverson’s position was that he had not authorized his counsel to accept the settlement. His position was that his attorney had led him to believe that he had 30 days to decide whether to accept the settlement offer. His attorney filed a response to Steverson’s motions, asserting that he had accepted the offer of $350,000. She also agreed with Steverson’s request for an evidentiary hearing. On Dec. 12, 2005, the magistrate judge filed a report recommending denial of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion and enforcement of the settlement agreement without an evidentiary hearing. Steverson objected. On March 28, 2006, the district court adopted the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge. HOLDING:Vacated and remanded. The court finds the language of this order confusing. It arguably reads that after 30 days the court would not have jurisdiction to enforce the settlement. Moreover, Steverson submitted the affidavits of his wife and Daniel Finley, a friend who had accompanied him to the settlement negotiations. These affidavits support Steverson’s assertion that he believed he had 30 days to accept or decline the offer of settlement. Also, the fact that Steverson informed his counsel within 30 days of the order further supports his assertion. Also, the court finds troubling the circumstances of the settlement negotiations. The attorneys were in chambers discussing settlement with the magistrate judge but Steverson, the plaintiff-seaman, was in a different room. On Aug. 25, a motion to compel settlement was filed by GlobalSantaFe. Steverson obtained new counsel, who filed a notice of appearance on Sept. 15. On Oct. 14, Steverson, through counsel, filed the Rule 60(b) motion, a response to the motion to compel and a motion for an evidentiary hearing. The motion was made within a reasonable amount of time, and the interests of justice outweigh the virtue of finality of the judgment in this particular case. Moreover, the ultimate concern is whether the seaman relinquished his rights with an informed understanding and a full appreciation of the consequences when he settled his claim. OPINION:Benavides, J.; Higginbotham, Garza and Benavides, J.J.

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