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Settlement Talks Between County and Jane Does Fall Apart

The sides are “far apart” on a potential settlement.

Settlement talks between Schuylkill County government and the 4 Jane Doe Plaintiffs suing it and several County officials, including Commissioner George Halcovage, fell apart last month.

The two sides were scheduled to meet on June 9 to potentially hammer out a settlement offer and end this legal drama.

That, however, did not happen.

The following Monday, court documents simply stated that a settlement wasn’t reached. Subsequent filings in US District Court provided a few more details on what reportedly happened during those settlement talks.

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Background: The 4 Jane Doe Plaintiffs are suing Halcovage over claims of serial sexual harassment and other County officials for ignoring those claims and then retaliating against them for coming forward with the lawsuit. The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2021.

Jane Doe Lawsuit Latest: Headed to Trial or Back to the Negotiating Table?

Back on June 9, both sides met before District Judge Joseph Saporito to potentially work out a settlement offer. The Jane Does had previously rejected an $850,000 offer from the County but agreed to meet again.

In a document filed by the County on June 19, it says both sides engaged in talks “throughout the entire day” on the 9th.

However, in a follow-up document filed with the court, the lawyer representing the Jane Does denies that settlement talks happened the entire day.

Catherine Lowry (nee Smith), who represents the Plaintiffs, says in the filing that at the end of the day on the 9th, her clients made a revised settlement demand to the County, which did not respond to it.

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At the same time as the settlement talks continue, the clock toward a potential trial is also ticking. And the next step in that process is filing Motions for Summary Judgement.

Note: Briefly, a Summary Judgement is one that happens by a Judge without a trial based on evidence presented in the case. They can be on the entire case or just parts of it.

The County was looking to extend the deadline to file those Motions for Summary Judgement in this case, based on the fact that settlement talks were happening. Despite an objection from Lowry, Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson agreed to the County’s request and set a new deadline for July 31.

Requesting a New Mediator

One of the conditions the Jane Does wanted if they agreed to continue settlement talks was to have them in the presence of a new mediation judge, not Saporito.

In emails presented as evidence by the County, Lowry says her clients were “very disappointed” how the settlement conference on June 9 was “handled both by the Judge and the Defendants” and that they are “unwilling to agree to engage in any further discussions without a revised offer.”

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Emails from lawyers representing the County parties in this case indicate the two sides are “far apart” on a proper settlement offer.

Gerard Geiger, who is representing Halcovage, suggests that the two sides even try to settle some of the claims in the case and not go through an expansive trial, as it appears will happen if the mediation talks never materialize again.

Attorney Marie Jones, who is one of the County’s lawyers in this case, called Lowry out on purportedly presenting too many “one-sided conditions” if the two sides were to agree to more settlement negotiations.

Lowry says her clients are unwilling to discuss furthering settlement talks until the County responds to their “reduced” demands after the June 9 settlement conference fell apart.

Further, Lowry states that her clients don’t believe the County is “negotiating in good faith” and don’t want to waste their time or the court’s time with setting up more settlement talks.

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