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Bose v. Lane's Valley Forge Aviation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 17, 2019

JOYDEEP BOSE, Plaintiff,
v.
LANE'S VALLEY FORGE AVIATION, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On August 29, 2019, Defendants Sandra Jubb, Lane Richard Jubb Jr., and Lane's Valley Forge Aviation, Inc. (“LV FA”) (collectively “Defendants”) filed a Motion for Sanctions against Plaintiff Joydeep Bose. (Doc. No. 87). This Motion is now ripe for a decision. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Sanctions will be granted and this case will be dismissed.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         In March 2012, Plaintiff Joydeep Bose (“Plaintiff”) was employed as a Flight Instructor by Defendant Lane's Valley Forge Aviation, Inc. (“LV FA”). (Doc. No. 1.) Defendants Sandra Jubb and Lane Richard Jubb Jr. are owners, operators, and managers of LVFA. At some point, Plaintiff was terminated by LVFA. The parties dispute his termination date. Plaintiff contends that he worked for LVFA until approximately January 4, 2014. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendant submits that Plaintiff was discharged in February 2013, “with the exception of any flight instruction he would perform on the airports [sic] behalf.” (Doc. No. 6.)

         Plaintiff claims that some time from 2012 through January 2014, Defendant failed to compensate him for the work he performed at LVFA. (Id.) He alleges that during this period he worked 50 to 60 hours per week providing flight instructions, running airport operations, cleaning and maintaining hangars, and refueling airplanes.[1] (Id.) Plaintiff contends he was a “non-exempt” employee, and therefore in addition to his regular salary, he is “entitled to receive over-time compensation” for his hours worked. (Id.) Defendants argue to the contrary that Plaintiff was compensated for hours worked up until February 2013 when his employment was terminated. (Doc. No. 6.) After his termination, Defendants never asked Plaintiff to perform any duties, except for the flight instruction. (LVFA asserts, however, that it did not receive any record of his flight instruction after his discharge. (Id.) Defendants claim Plaintiff remained in an apartment on Defendants' premises, “rent free and utilities paid” after being told his services were no longer necessary. (Doc. No. 6.) Defendants instructed Plaintiff “to vacate the premises” on January 4, 2014. (Id.)

         On July 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Complaint (Doc. No. 1) alleging that he is owed wages and overtime compensation. He raises claims under: 1) the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)[2] (Count I); 2) the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“PMWA”)[3] (Count II); and 3) the Pennsylvania Wage and Payment Collection Law (“WPCL”)[4] (Count III). (Id.) On November 15, 2016, Defendant filed an Answer (Doc No. 6) denying these claims.

         B. Plaintiff's Failure to Comply with Discovery Orders

         Plaintiff has failed to comply with five Court Orders regarding discovery.[5] Five Court Orders were issued in this case requiring Plaintiff to either turn over discovery materials or to notify the defense in writing that he did not have the requested discovery. The Orders also required Plaintiff to make himself available to be deposed. These Orders were issued after this case was reassigned to this Court[6] on September 11, 2017. (Doc. No. 20.)

         Originally, the close of fact discovery was set for June 23, 2018. (Doc. No. 26.) On June 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery. (Doc. No. 30.) The Motion was granted and an Amended Scheduling Order (Doc. No. 31) extending the close of discovery to August 15, 2018 was entered[7]. (Id.) Both before and after this date, events occurred in this case regarding Plaintiff's failure to comply with discovery Orders. To date, as noted, Plaintiff has failed to comply with five discovery Orders. The events relating to noncompliance with the Orders will be discussed next.

         1.Order Dated October 10, 2018 Instructing Plaintiff to Produce a Binder of Discovery Materials and The Matter of Plaintiff's Deposition

         A United States Magistrate Judge held a settlement conference on October 10, 2018 with counsel for the parties.[8] (Id.) During the conference, Plaintiff's counsel brought several binders of discoverable documents to the conference, which were not previously given to Defendants. As a result, the Magistrate Judge issued an Order requiring Plaintiff to produce the binder of documents to Defendants by November 20, 2018. (Doc. No. 38.) Plaintiff did not comply with this discovery Order. Thereafter, Defendant filed two additional motions to compel Plaintiff to provide this discovery. Both motions were granted, yet, as noted below, Plaintiff did not comply with the Orders of the Court.

         Earlier, on July 9, 2018, Defendant's counsel, James E. Beasley, Esquire (“Beasley”), sent a letter to the Court requesting that Defendants should not have to appear for a deposition until Plaintiff's deposition had been taken. (Doc. No. 34.) The Court had a conference call with counsel to resolve the matter. Issues concerning the scheduling of Plaintiff's deposition have been ongoing despite the Court's efforts through telephone conferences to compel Plaintiff to cooperate and appear for a deposition. He has not done so to date.

         2.Orders Dated March 4 and 19, 2019, Instructing Plaintiff to Produce Outstanding Discovery Materials and to Provide Deposition Dates

         On February 6, 2019, Defendants' filed a Motion to Compel Plaintiff's Deposition. (Doc. No. 48.) On March 1, 2019, the Court held a telephone conference with counsel for both parties to resolve the discovery dispute. (Doc. No. 51.) During the conference, the Court learned that outstanding discovery requests and the binder had not been given to Defendants and asked Plaintiff's counsel why they were not produced. Plaintiff's counsel responded that [Plaintiff] did not have the documents in “his possession and had to retrieve them.” Following the conference, the Court issued an Order on March 4, 2019 requiring counsel for both parties by March 8, 2019 to send letters to each other itemizing outstanding discovery materials requested. (Id.) Both counsel complied with this direction. In addition, the Court ordered that Plaintiff's deposition be scheduled. Defendants' counsel requested, in pertinent part: 1) Plaintiff's sworn verification substantiating the itemized list of uncompensated time and unreimbursed expenses alleged in his action; 2) Plaintiff's pilot log books for the years 2011 to 2014; 3) Plaintiff's username and password for the Perkiomen Valley Airport Facebook account[9]; 4) a copy of Plaintiff's FAA aeromedical application; and 5) dates for Plaintiff's deposition. (Doc. No. 62.) Plaintiff did not produce these documents or set a date for the deposition.

         On March 19, 2019, the Court held another telephone conference with both parties. During the conference, the Court ordered both parties to comply with the discovery requests which included Defendants' March 8, 2019 discovery letter to Plaintiff. Plaintiff did not comply with this Order.[10]

         3.Order Dated May 20, 2019 Instructing Plaintiff to Compile and Turn Over the Outstanding Discovery Information and to Provide a Date For His Deposition by May 24, 2019

         On April 25, 2019, Defendants filed another Motion to Compel and a Motion for Sanctions. (Doc. No. 64.) Four days later, on April 29, 2019, Plaintiff's counsel (Kolman) filed a Motion to Withdraw as Attorney. (Doc. No. 65.) In the Motion, counsel requested that his representation be terminated pursuant to Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16(b) (Declining or Terminating Representation).[11] On May 20, 2019, the Court held a hearing on both Motions. (Doc. No. 71.) Plaintiff was present at the hearing. At one point, the Court excused defense counsel and heard from Plaintiff's counsel on the reasons why he filed the Motion. Thereafter, at the hearing, the Court directed that by May 24, 2019, Plaintiff must produce outstanding discovery documents to Defendants and provide a date for his deposition. Plaintiff, again, did not comply with these specific directives.

         4.Order Dated August 22, 2019 Instructing Plaintiff by August 28, 2019 to Produce the Discovery to Defendant or to Inform Defendant in Writing that He Does Not Have the Requested Items

         On June 12, 2019, Defendants renewed their Motion to Compel and for Sanctions. (Doc. Nos. 76-77) because by May 24, 2019, no discovery was produced as ordered. On July 3, 2019, Plaintiff did turn over the following documents, which constituted meager compliance with the discovery requests:

a. Flight logs for the year 2011;
b. Examples of handwritten fuel pump logs, allegedly from Defendants;
c. The name of one student pilot who received a pilot's licenses at Lane's Valley Forge Aviation between 2012 and 2014;
d. Name of a student pilot who soloed at Lane's Valley Forge Aviation between 2012 and 2014.

(Doc. No. 79-1.) The flight logs for the year 2011 are inadequate because Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that he is owed payment for his services from 2012 through January 2014. Further, the examples of fuel pump logs, which had been supplied to Plaintiff by Defendant, and the name of one student pilot, who received a pilot's license and allegedly was trained by Plaintiff during the years 2012 to 2014, are not specific enough to show that Plaintiff was working for Defendant from 2012 to January 2014, the critical time at issue here. The same is true for the name of one student pilot who soloed at LVFA between 2012 to 2014. Furthermore, Plaintiff did not provide a date for his deposition.

         Consequently, on July 12, 2019, Defendants filed a second Motion for Sanctions (Doc. No. 77). On August 12, 2019, Defendants' counsel sent a letter to the Court reminding that Plaintiff “still has not provided the materials that Your Honor previously ordered him to produce.” (Doc. No. 78-1.) On August 19, 2019, the Court received another letter from Defendants' counsel stating, in part, the following:

Defendants have continuously made efforts to obtain Plaintiff's responses to outstanding discovery requests and dates for his deposition - as ordered by Your Honor…. To this date we have received no responsive documents to the outstanding requests ordered by Your Honor months ago. The documents Plaintiff did produce (to the extent legible) are - quite frankly - nonsense… As will be readily apparently, those records described by Plaintiff are impertinent, unrelated to any of his allegations, and most are not even from the time period where [Plaintiff] is claiming unpaid wages… Quite simply, none of the records Plaintiff produced support his claimed unpaid wages.
[12]

         On August 22, 2019, the Court held a telephone conference with counsel for the parties to resolve the dispute. The Court ordered that by August 28, 2019, Plaintiff must produce the following outstanding discovery information:

a. The sworn verification form substantiating the uncompensated hours and reimbursed expenses alleged in ...

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