District Court Sanctions Plaintiff for Insufficient Damages Calculations

The opinion below contains a decision of the district court to grant a motion for Rule 37 sanctions on the basis that plaintiff’s damages calculations were insufficiently detailed. It is important to note that the opinion is the second time the plaintiff was sanctioned for insufficient discovery responses pursuant to Rule 37.

The plaintiff is a medical doctor who was terminated by the Defendants from his teaching position. Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for raising issues concerning patient care. The Defendants denied that allegation.

Rule 26(a) requires a plaintiff to provide a calculation of each category of damages claimed. In this case the plaintiff’s counsel tendered a letter to the Defendants with a bullet point list of categories of damages. Plaintiff only produced the letter after the court granted a motion to compel which required him to produce a damages calculation. The opinion explains:

By an Opinion dated June 19, 2015, the Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part, precluding Thompson from introducing any new and unproduced documents as evidence of damages against the NYU Defendants and ordering him to “produce his computation of damages within two weeks, relying on the documents he has produced or acquired through discovery.” Thompson, 2015 WL 3824254, at *4.

In response to this order plaintiff provided a letter to the defendants as follows:

On July 4, 2015, counsel for the Plaintiff emailed Defendants a one-page letter stating the following:

Please accept this letter as a supplement to Plaintiff’s prior discovery responses and in compliance with Judge Sweet’s Order of June 19, 2015. In addition to the information previously provided in responses to interrogatories, document demands, and deposition testimony, Plaintiff provides the following damage calculation:

• $50,000 salary from NYU

• $250,000 salary from Jamaica Hospital

• $110,000 in malpractice premium per year

• Loss of 401k contribution of $17,500 per year

• Health insurance premium of $301.00 per month

• Dental insurance premium of $10.18 per month

• Loss of surplus bonus from NYU/JHMC based on 80% of collections generated above salary. Plaintiff is not in possession of sufficient information to calculate the exact loss but will provide same once sufficient information is produced by defendants.

• Statutory attorneys’ fees and expenses.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Defendants again moved for Rule 37 sanctions seeking the dismissal of the complaint. The court granted the motion, in part.

The July 4 letter from Thompson’s counsel falls well below what is required by Rule 26. The letter consists of eight bullet points indicating the total dollar amounts requested for some of the categories of damages Thompson claims, without any analysis of where those numbers came from or identification of the supporting documentation from which they could be derived. Thompson was on notice that this sort of quick list would be insufficient; the October 22, 2014 Order required him to provide “a computation of damages, including but not limited to a specific formula indicating how plaintiff’s theory of damages is supported, along with supporting documents,” while the June 19, 2015 Opinion, which granted the Defendants’ motion for sanctions, emphasized that Rule 26 requires “both a dollar amount sought and some analysis explaining how that figure was arrived at,” and explained that a “more detailed calculation” would be required given how far this case has progressed. Thompson, 2015 WL 3824254, at *3.

Having failed to comply with his Rule 26 obligations and the Orders of this Court, the Plaintiff will be precluded from presenting any evidence with respect to damages other than that produced so far in discovery and that which is produced in accordance with this Order.

This decision is measured in tone and does give the plaintiff an opportunity to correct the failure top produce detailed damages calculations. Detailed damages calculations are important because they can lead the defendant to settle the case. At least the defendant would know what is at stake in the litigation.

In sum, this opinion is well-reasoned and thoughtful and should remind all federal court practitioners to make sure that they do their work diligently and thoroughly. Grandstanding and blustering don’t work very well in the modern federal courthouse.

Source: Thompson v. THE JAMAICA HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, Dist. Court, SD New York 2015 – Google Scholar

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