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Perez v. State of Maine

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
760 F.2d 11 (1985)


Facts

After the Maine Department of Manpower Affairs (DMA) refused to hire Nazario Perez (plaintiff), Perez sued DMA in state court for violating a state antidiscrimination law. Perez alleged that DMA had failed to hire him because he was Hispanic. DMA settled with Perez for $20,000. The settlement agreement stated that DMA agreed to pay Perez $20,000 as full and final settlement of “this matter.” During settlement negotiations, Perez received a right-to-sue letter from a federal agency to which he had also made a discrimination complaint. The letter was a precondition for bringing a federal action. Perez did not tell the lawyer representing him in his suit against DMA about the right-to-sue letter. Instead, Perez consulted a different attorney about whether, after settling with DMA, he would still be able to bring a federal suit. After receiving his settlement from DMA, Perez sued DMA again in federal court alleging the same facts. At trial, the attorneys for DMA and Perez both testified that they believed the $20,000 was intended to settle all discrimination claims against DMA, both state and federal. The trial court found in favor of DMA, holding that the “matter” settled by Perez’s state court suit referred to all claims against DMA under both state and federal antidiscrimination statutes. Perez appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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