Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

HUSSEY v. CHASE MANHATTAN BANK

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


January 12, 2004.

JOSEPH HUSSEY
v.
CHASE MANHATTAN BANK, ET AL

The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD B. SURRICK, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Presently before this Court is Plaintiff, Joseph Hussey's, Motion for Sanctions Against the Chase Defendants for failure to comply with this Court's Order of May 15, 2003. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs Motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff's Complaint alleges a breach of fiduciary duty under the Employment Retirement and Income Security Act, ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C.A. § 1132(a)(3), for the Chase Defendants' alleged failure to provide Plaintiff with the requisite information to elect excess long-term disability ("LTD") benefits. (Compl. at ¶ 35.) Plaintiff claims that during discovery, he "served upon Chase a Request for Production of Documents which sought, among other categories of information, all documents relating to individuals who elected to participate in the Chase excess LTD benefit," (Pl.'s Mot. for Sanctions Against the Chase Defs. at ¶ 6.), but the Chase Defendants refused to provide the documents. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff then filed a Motion to Compel. (Doc. No. 12.) We subsequently provided both parties with the opportunity to be heard on this issue during a conference held in Chambers on May 15, 2003. Based on that discussion, Page 2 we issued our Order of May 15, 2003. Plaintiff presently seeks to impose both "preclusionary and monetary sanctions against the Chase Defendants," pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(B), for their alleged failure to comply with sections 1(a) and 1(d) of that Order.

 LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  The decision to impose sanctions for discovery violations under Rule 37(b)(2)(B) is "within the district court's broad discretion over discovery matters." Ware Communications. Inc v. Rodale Press. Inc., No. CIV.A.95-5870, 2002 WL 89604, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2002). However, the Third Circuit also cautions that the exclusion of evidence for violation of a discovery order is an "extreme sanction." Ware Communications. Inc. v. Rodale Press. Inc., 322 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing In re TMI Litig., 193 F.3d 613, 721 (3d Cir. 1999)). When considering sanctions under Rule 37(b)(2)(B), courts use the following factors to guide their analysis:

(1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense.
Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984).

 DISCUSSION

  No Violation of Section 1(d)

  Plaintiff claims that the Chase Defendants failed to comply with Section 1(d) of this Court's May 15, 2003 Order by withholding the names of the Chase employees who selected Page 3 LTD Excess Plan coverage between 1997 and the present. However, section 1(d) of the Order states:

1. The Motion to Compel Chase Defendants is GRANTED to the following extent. By June 16, 2003, each of the Chase Defendants shall produce:
. . .
d. the document or documents showing the number of Chase employees who selected LTD Excess Plan coverage for . . . each of the years 1997 to the present.
(Court's Order of 5/15/03, at 2; Doc. No. 25 (emphasis added).)

  While there was a delay due to Chase Defendants' initial failure to provide the material related to section 1(d) when they sent Plaintiff the discovery related to the other areas specified in the Order, Chase Defendants did ultimately provide Plaintiff with the required information. There is nothing in the record to indicate that Chase Defendants' initial omission was an act of bad faith or that Plaintiff was prejudiced as a result of that initial omission.*fn1 Further, the Chase Defendants provided Plaintiff with that information within eight days of Plaintiffs correspondence which brought this omission to the Chase Defendants' attention. (Letter from Schwemler to Yu and Hollihan of 7/2/03, Pl.'s Ex. D; Letter from Yu to Schwemler of 7/10/03, Pl.'s Ex. E.)

  Plaintiff subsequently objected to the form in which the Chase Defendants provided that information, claiming that the Chase Defendants' chart that listed only the number of individuals both eligible and enrolled in the LTD Excess Plan for 1997, 1998, and 1999, was insufficient. Page 4 Plaintiff then requested copies of the documents that were the source for these numbers. Within six days of receiving that request, the Chase Defendants provided Plaintiff with these documents in redacted form, omitting the names of the employees. Again, Plaintiff objected, claiming that the Chase Defendants had failed to comply with this Court's Order. (Letter from Schwemler to Yu of 7/17/03, Pl.'s Ex. F.)

  Plaintiff's present Motion, as it relates to section 1(d), is premised on the belief that this Court ordered the Chase Defendants to provide the names of the employees. We did not. The plain language of the Order requires only that the Chase Defendants provide the number of employees, not their names. Accordingly, sanctions related to section 1(d) are inappropriate.

  No Violation of Section l(a)

  Plaintiff also alleges that the Chase Defendants have failed to comply with section l(a) of this Court's May 15, 2003 Order. That section requires the Chase Defendants to produce, by June 16, 2003, "all documents reflecting any complaints, appeals, or protests regarding eligibility for the Chase Long Term Disability Excess Plan ("LTD Excess Plan") filed by employees of Chase Defendants for the time period 1997 to present." (Court Order of 5/15/03, at 1; Doc. No. 25.) On June 16, 2003, the Chase Defendants informed Plaintiff that "the Chase Defendants are not aware of any complaints, appeals, or protests regarding eligibility for the LTD Excess Plan filed by any employees other than Joseph Hussey. Therefore, there are no documents that are responsive to item l(a) of the Order." (Letter from Yu to Schwemler of 6/16/03 at 1, Pl.'s Ex. C.) Plaintiff does not dispute this statement, but argues that the Chase Defendants failed to comply with the Order by not conducting a proper investigation as to such communications related to the Plaintiff himself. More specifically, Plaintiff relies on the deposition of Katie Page 5 Berliner, Chase's Corporate Designee, who was involved in reviewing Plaintiff's appeal. Berliner stated that "she never directed any Chase employees, involved in processing Mr. Hussey's appeal, to search their archived e-mails for responsive documents." (Pl's Mot for Sanctions Against the Chase Defs., at ¶ 36 (citing Dep. of Katie Berliner at 73, 80-81)(emphasis added).) Plaintiff's allegation is misleading. First, Defendants clearly state: "The Chase Defendants have produced all documents relating to Plaintiff's claim for LTD Excess Plan benefits." (The Chase Defs.' Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Sanctions at 11-12 (emphasis added).) Defendants then go on to explain their process for compiling such e-mails, suggesting that this system would direct them to all existing e-mail documents:

Copies of all e-mail message[s] produced by the Chase Defendants [are] attached hereto as Exhibit 3. The e-mail messages relating to Plaintiff's claim were printed and included in his paper file prior to the commencement of this lawsuit. Ms. Berliner explained this process during her deposition as follows:
Q. Did you archive any e-mails in connection with
Mr. Hussey's appeal?
A. I'm sure I did.
Q. Have you for the purposes of this litigation checked your e-mail files for any correspondence like that?
A. No, I have not.
Q. Were you asked to?
A. No.
Q. Do you know if anyone's done that for you?
A. Not to my knowledge. What I did was, I reviewed Mr. Hussey's file, whatever we had in his physical file. I didn `t go through any e-mails or ask anyone to go through and pull any electronic, if they didn't already exist in that file.
(The Chase Defs.' Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Sanctions at 11-12 (citing Berliner Deposition at p. 73, 1. 5-21) (emphasis added).)

  In light of this testimony explaining the Chase Defendants' process for tracking whether such e-mails would exist, it would appear that the Chase Defendants have complied with our Order. We see no basis for Plaintiff's suggestion that additional e-mail correspondence exists. Page 6 The Chase Defendants cannot be required to produce documents that, according to their records, do not exist. We are satisfied that the Chase Defendants have provided Plaintiff with all relevant e-mail correspondence that they have in their possession. This includes more than 100 pages of such correspondences. (Exhibits to the Chase Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Sanctions at Ex. 3.) Accordingly, sanctions for failure to comply with section l(a) of this Court's Order of May 15, 2003, are inappropriate.

 CONCLUSION

  Based on the foregoing, we will deny Plaintiffs Motion for Sanctions Against the Chase Defendants for failure to comply with this Court's Order of May 15, 2003.

  An appropriate Order follows. Page 7

  ORDER

  AND NOW, this ___ day of January, 2004, upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions Against the Chase Defendants, (Doc. No. 31), and all documents filed in support thereof and opposition thereto, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.