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Archive for the ‘1st Circuit’ Category

Case Summary-ME: Parlin; Spoliation not an Independent Cause of Action in Maine

Posted by rjbiii on November 17, 2009

Parlin v. Cumberland County, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83192 (D. Me. Sept. 11, 2009)

District Court of Maine interprets state law.

Factual Background: Prison inmate brings claims against Sheriff and sheriff’s employees for actions during her stay in the counter jail. Plaintiff was an inmate at the Cumberland County jail. She had self-reported to the facility to serve a seven day sentence. During the first day of her stay, she became emotional and disruptive, possibly due to the influence of prescription drugs, which were taken legally (although she admitted to taking double the amount prescribed for one of the medicines). Plaintiff’s outbursts caused her to be moved a number of times to the “detox” cell. The detox cell is a simple cement slab with a metal grate in the floor and no bunk or toilet. During one of these moves, an incident occurred in which the plaintiff and one of the defendant prison guards fell to the ground. Plaintiff landed chin first, while the guard landed on top of her. This incident, according to plaintiff, caused a torn rotator cuff to plaintiff’s shoulder, on which she had already had surgery.

Plaintiff’s Claim under a theory of Spoliation:
Plaintiff had submitted a claim for spoliation in her complaint, contending that defendants failed to preserve videotape of the incident in which she was injured. The court immediately dismissed this part of the complaint, because “Maine does not recognize an independent cause of action for spoliation.”

Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions for Spoliation: Plaintiff had moved that the court issue an order: (1) establishing as a matter of fact that Defendants destroyed the videotape and physically assaulted Plaintiff; (2) striking all defenses to Counts VI 1 (spoliation of evidence) and VIII (battery); and (3) prohibiting Defendants from introducing any evidence at trial opposing Counts VI and VIII. Plaintiff also requests an adverse inference instruction at trial.

Defendants argued that any failure to preserve was not their fault. The court agreed, stating that: “[a] key consideration in whether to impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence is the ‘degree of fault of the offending party.'” The court stated that Plaintiff had failed any fault could be attributed to defendants for the failure to preserve the video. Because it would be inequitable to sanction a blameless party for another’s act of spoliation, the court denied the motion.

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Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Summary-ME, D. Me., Duty to Preserve, Judge George Z. Singal, Maine, Sanctions, Spoliation, states | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Kelley; Rule for Adverse Inference, 1st Circuit

Posted by rjbiii on August 10, 2008

When a document relevant to an issue in a case is destroyed, the trier of fact sometimes may infer that the party who obliterated it did so out of a realization that the contents were unfavorable. Before such an inference may be drawn, there must be a sufficient foundational showing that the party who destroyed the document had notice both of the potential claim and of the document’s potential relevance. Even then, the adverse inference is permissive, not mandatory. If, for example, the factfinder believes that the documents were destroyed accidently or for an innocent reason, then the factfinder is free to reject the inference.

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When evidence indicates that a party is aware of circumstances that are likely to give rise to future litigation and yet destroys potentially relevant records without a particularized inquiry, a factfinder may reasonably infer that the party probably did so because the records would harm its case.

Kelley v. United Airlines, 176 F.R.D. 422, 427-28 (D. Mass. 1997)

Posted in 1st Circuit, Adverse Inference, Case Blurbs, Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Good Cause Analysis-Seventh Factor

Posted by rjbiii on February 28, 2008

[Ed.-The court found that medical claim forms, requested by Plaintiff, would not be reasonably accessible. It then launched into an analysis to determine whether plaintiffs proved that “good cause” existed to compel production notwithstanding the accessibility issue. This blurb is from the analysis of seven factors. These are factors four and five: The likelihood of finding relevant, responsive information that cannot be obtained from other, more easily accessed sources; and Predictions as to the importance and usefulness of the further information;]

The parties resources.

While the Defendant has understandably engaged in a lengthy discussion of the cost of production, neither party has provided the court with any information about their resources. BeneFirst does represent that they no longer have a full time staff and that in order to retrieve the images that they would have to hire temporary help. At the same time, as previously noted, the Plaintiffs have significantly narrowed the breadth of their request and therefore, the time and cost for BeneFirst to produce the requested information should be significantly reduced.

Given the lack of information available to the Court, this factor is neutral.

W.E. Aubuchon Co., Inc. v. BeneFirst, LLC, 245 F.R.D. 38 (D. Mass. 2007)

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cost of Discovery, Cost Shifting, D. Mass., Discovery Requests, Document Retention, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(b), Good Cause, Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Good Cause Analysis-Fourth & Fifth Factors

Posted by rjbiii on December 28, 2007

[Ed.-The court found that medical claim forms, requested by Plaintiff, would not be reasonably accessible. It then launched into an analysis to determine whether plaintiffs proved that “good cause” existed to compel production notwithstanding the accessibility issue. This blurb is from the analysis of seven factors. These are factors four and five: The likelihood of finding relevant, responsive information that cannot be obtained from other, more easily accessed sources; and Predictions as to the importance and usefulness of the further information;]

I agree with the Plaintiffs that the requested claim forms and medical bills are clearly an integral part of the litigation; the requested information goes not only to BeneFirst’s culpability, but also to the amount of damages, if any, to which the Plaintiffs may be entitled. There can be no serious contention that the information is not highly relevant. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how this case could be prosecuted or defended without the claims forms and attendant bills. As previously found, they are not available from any other source (a determination which is uncontroverted).

These factors favor the Plaintiffs.

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Mass., Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(b), Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman, Relevance | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Good Cause Analysis-Two factors on redundancy and availability of data

Posted by rjbiii on December 28, 2007

[Ed.-The court found that medical claim forms, requested by Plaintiff, would not be reasonably accessible. It then launched into an analysis to determine whether plaintiffs proved that “good cause” existed to compel production notwithstanding the accessibility issue. This blurb is from the analysis of seven factors. These are factors two and three: The quantity of information available from other and more easily accessed sources; and The failure to produce relevant information that seems likely to have existed but is no longer available on more easily accessed sources.]

The gravamen of the Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint is that BeneFirst mishandled their employees’ medical claims by failing to determine eligibility for payment, the availability of co-payment and co-insurance, and subrogation. The processing of the claim forms was presumably the mechanism for making these determinations. While the Amended Complaint and subsequent pleadings are silent, the relevant time period appears to be from 2001 to 2004.*

*I so find because this litigation was commenced in 2005 and it seems safe to assume that none of the original claim forms and medical bills were still in existence at that time (if they were, BeneFirst presumably would have retained them).

According to BeneFirst, the original claim forms and medical bills were processed by hand, kept for 60 days, converted to a digital image and then destroyed. Therefore, digital images which constitute the information requested by the Plaintiffs are in the custody and control of BeneFirst and are not available through any other source.

These factors favor the Plaintiffs.

W.E. Aubuchon Co., Inc. v. BeneFirst, LLC, 245 F.R.D. 38 (D. Mass. 2007)

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Mass., Discovery Requests, Document Retention, Duty to Preserve, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(b), Good Cause, Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman, Unreasonably Cumulative | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Good Cause Analysis-Specificity of Discovery Request

Posted by rjbiii on December 28, 2007

[Ed.-The court found that medical claim forms, requested by Plaintiff, would not be reasonably accessible. It then launched into an analysis to determine whether plaintiffs proved that “good cause” existed to compel production notwithstanding the accessibility issue. This blurb is from the analysis of seven factors. This is the first factor: The specificity of the discovery request.]

BeneFirst’s Motion seeks reconsideration of this Court’s earlier discovery order which ordered BeneFirst to produce “all claims files, including the actual bills in BeneFirst’s possession or control.” The parties have responded intelligently and vigorously to this Order and there is no misunderstanding or confusion about the specificity of the information sought by the Plaintiffs.

This factor favors the Plaintiffs.

W.E. Aubuchon Co., Inc. v. BeneFirst, LLC, 245 F.R.D. 38 (D. Mass. 2007)

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Mass., Discovery Requests, FRCP 26(b), Good Cause, Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Applicability of FRCP Amendments to Case filed Prior to Enactment

Posted by rjbiii on December 28, 2007

The Order of the Supreme Judicial Court of the United States adopting this amendment to Rule 26 provides that such amendments “… shall take effect on December 1, 2006, and shall govern in all proceedings thereafter commenced and, insofar as just and practicable, all proceedings then pending.” This case was filed before December 1, 2006 and the instant dispute arose before the effective date of the amendment. At the same time, the case is still in the discovery stages. Furthermore, in briefing the issue, the parties have cited to the seven-step analysis for determining whether or not to shift the cost of production proposed by Judge Scheindlin in Zubulake. The notes to the 2006 Amendment to Rule 26 to a large degree adopt Judge Scheindlin’s seven-step analysis for purposes of determining whether a party should be required to search for and produce information that is not reasonably accessible. See Fed.R.Civ.P. Advisory Committee’s note to 2006 Amendment. Under these circumstances, I find that it is just and practicable to apply the recent amendments to Rule 26 to the instant dispute.

W.E. Aubuchon Co., Inc. v. BeneFirst, LLC, 245 F.R.D. 38 (D. Mass. 2007)

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Mass., FRCP 26, Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Plasse; Elements for dismissal of case as sanction, 1st Circuit

Posted by rjbiii on September 4, 2007

One potential basis for [dismissing an action] is a finding that a party has engaged in fraud on the court, that is, a party has sentiently set in motion some unconscionable scheme calculated to interfere with the judicial system’s ability impartially to adjudicate a matter by unfairly hampering the presentation of the opposing party’s claim or defense. Plasse v. Tyco Electronics Corp., 2006 WL 2623441 (D. Mass. 2006) (citing Hull v. Municipality of San Juan, 356 F.3d 98, 102 (1st Cir. 2004)).
Dismissal is warranted:

  • Where a Π vigorously prosecutes a suit based upon a document he fabricated. Plasse, citing Aoude v. Mobil Oil Corp., 892 F.2d. 1115, 1118 (1st Cir. 1989).
  • Where a Π deliberately conceals evidence of prior injury in order to enhance damages. Plasse, citing Hull v. Municipality of San Juan, 356 F.3d 98, 102 (1st Cir. 2004).
  • Standard is clear and convincing. Plasse, citing Hull v. Municipality of San Juan, 356 F.3d 98, 102 (1st Cir. 2004).

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Mass., Dismissal of Case, Duty to Produce, Judge Michael A. Ponsor, Sanctions | Leave a Comment »