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Pandeosingh v. American Medical Response, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 20, 2014



KATHLEEN M. TAFOYA, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on "Defendants' Motion to Vacate the Award of Attorneys' Fees and Costs Dated April 7, 2014" [Doc. No. 55] and "Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce Order Granting Sanctions" [Doc. No. 40], as well as the related motions "Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions and Adverse Inferences for Defendants' Failure to Comply with the Court's November 1, 2013, January 9, 2014, and February 7, 2014 Orders" [Doc. No. 28, unredacted version Doc. No. 36] and "Plaintiff's Motion for Fees and Costs Associated with Reopening Steve Murphy's and Paul Anderson's Depositions" [Doc. No. 27]. Each motion has been fully briefed and the court has considered the corresponding responses and replies along with submitted exhibits.

This case has taken a circuitous route to finally arrive in this federal court in the District of Colorado. The procedural background of the case was set forth by Senior District Judge Fredric Block in his Order transferring the case to Colorado on April 30, 2014:

This case originated in Florida in the spring of 2009, when Pandeosingh filed suit against AMR, GMR, and a third entity, Global Medical Response of Trinidad & Tobago ("GMRTT"), that is not a party to this action. After removing the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on May 26, 2009, defendants succeeded in having the case dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction on July 8, 2009. Pandeosingh's motion to reopen the case was denied on August 27, 2009.
Pandeosingh then filed suit against AMR and GMR in New York Supreme Court, Queens County, in October 2009. Defendants removed the case to [U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York] on November 23, 2009, and moved again to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. They also moved to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds. In a Memorandum and Order issued on February 15, 2012, the Court denied the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, but granted leave to refile the motion after plaintiff had had an opportunity to conduct limited jurisdictional discovery. The Court also denied the motion to dismiss on grounds of forum non conveniens. Pandeosingh v. AMR, 2012 WL 511815 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (hereinafter "Feb. 15 Opinion").
Jurisdictional discovery ended in January 2013, and as a result of information uncovered during discovery, Pandeosingh sought leave to amend her complaint to add EMSC [Emergency Medical Services Corp.] as a third defendant. The Court granted plaintiff's request and Pandeosingh filed her amended complaint on February 5, 2013, adding EMSC. In June 2013, defendants, by letter motion, once again moved to have the case dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. In addition, EMC [sic] sought dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds. The Court denied the jurisdictional motion to dismiss as to AMR because it conceded that it was registered to do business in New York, and had thereby consented to jurisdiction. See Augsbury Corp. v. Petrokey Corp., 97 A.D.2d 173, 175 (3d Dep't 1983) ("[A]uthorization to do business in the State and concomitant designation of the Secretary of State as its agent for service of process... is consent to in personam jurisdiction."). However, since EMSC and GMR brought challenges to many of plaintiff's jurisdictional factual assertions, the Court held a hearing on December 16-17 to resolve them. See Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, S.A., 902 F.2d 194, 196-97 (2d Cir. 1990) ("If the defendant contests the plaintiff's factual allegations, then a hearing is required, at which the plaintiff must prove the existence of jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.").

Order of Senior District Judge Fredrick Block signed April 30, 2014 ("Transfer Order") [Doc. No. 1]. In the Transfer Order, Judge Block concluded that the New York federal court did not have personal jurisdiction over Defendant GMR and transferred the case this court because it would have jurisdiction over all three defendants, given they are all headquartered in this state. ( Id. at 14-15.)

While the case was pending in New York, the parties actively argued and fought over even the simplest discovery requests. As noted by Judge Block, in his affirmance of sanctions against the Defendants after Plaintiffs had been forced to filed three motions to compel production of documents as a result of Defendants' repeated failure to comply with the Magistrate Judge's orders:

Numerous admonishments have been delivered by both the magistrate and district judge at multiple proceedings over a span of more than four years. The parties have been on notice of the Court's expedited trial schedule, which has already been delayed once because of discovery disputes and defendants' failure to adhere to Magistrate Judge Reyes's earlier orders. Defendants have also acknowledged that documents exist, but rather than seek ways to be responsive and to work with the Court to fashion protective orders and employ other measures to ensure that sensitive information will be handled appropriately, they have instead relied on jurisdictional and lack-of-control arguments. Given the time that has passed, the tenor of communications with counsel, and the record that has accumulated to date, Magistrate Judge Reyes determined that defendants have, at minimum, repeatedly failed to comply with his orders in a manner that warrants the award of costs.

Order of Senior Judge Fredric Block dated March 12, 2014 ("Affirming Order") [Doc. No. 1-268] (affirming Order of Magistrate Judge Reyes dated February 7, 2014 (Minute Entry, no document number; see Colorado Doc. No. 1-316, NY docket sheet) awarding sanctions against Defendants for discovery violations). Judge Block also stated:

Magistrate Judge Reyes has spent multiple days with counsel throughout this case, and he has devoted significant time to reviewing hundreds of pages of materials that the parties have filed. He has repeatedly helped clarify and limit discovery requests to ensure that the parties had a mutual understanding of the scope and meaning of requested items, particularly those relating to the relationship of the business entities that fall under the sprawling corporate umbrella of parent company EMSC. Magistrate Judge Reyes has also taken particular care to explain to the parties the basis of his rulings throughout discovery, and the record shows that he provided plaintiff and defendants an opportunity to argue each issue.

Affirming Order at 2-3. Plaintiff's filed a Bill of Costs requesting $82, 187.73 in costs and fees [Doc. No. 1-235], which Magistrate Judge Reyes reduced to $21, 094.35. [Doc. No. 1-304.]

In keeping with their propensity to beat a dead horse into dust, the parties now argue this court should either (1) enforce the sanction award granted by Magistrate Judge Reyes and affirmed by Senior Judge Block, or (2) set aside the award because of the lack of jurisdiction over one of the defendants by the court entering the sanction award.

Generally, the law of the case doctrine provides that, "when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent stages in the same case." Arizona v. California, 460 U.S. 605, 618 (1983). One of the branches[1] of this doctrine "holds that a court should generally adhere to its own prior rulings, but this rule merely guides the court's discretion; it does not limit its power." United States v. Johnson, 12 F.3d 1540, 1544 (10th Cir. 1993) (citing Arizona, 460 U.S. at 618). "Thus, the doctrine does not bind a judge to follow rulings in the same case by another judge of coordinate jurisdiction as long as prejudice does not ensue to the party seeking the benefit of the doctrine." Id. (citing United States v. Birney, 686 F.2d 102, 107 (2d Cir. 1982)). See also Rimbert v. Eli Lilly & Co., 647 F.3d 1247, 1251 (10th Cir. 2011) (the limited bases that typically justify a departure from a prior ruling under the law of the case doctrine- i.e., (1) new and different evidence; (2) intervening controlling authority; or (3) a clearly erroneous prior decision which would work a manifest injustice-do not apply to interlocutory rulings revisited prior to the entry of a final judgment). ...

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