A plaintiff's counsel must pay $3,000 in sanctions after doing an "extraordinarily poor job of client intake in not learning highly material information about his client" in a sexual harassment and discrimination suit, a federal judge has ruled.
"In contrast to the efforts of defendants' lawyers, plaintiff's lawyer should be roundly embarrassed," Eastern District Judge Brian Cogan wrote in Cajamarca v. Regal Entertainment Group, 11-cv-02780. "I sympathize with defendants' position. Regal had to expend a great deal of money not only on the capable lawyers that successfully defended plaintiff's suit, but also on the highly efficient but time consuming administrative human resources machinery used to investigate plaintiff's claim internally all in a case that, as a practical matter, had very little chance in front of a jury, given plaintiff's duplicity."
Cogan criticized counsel from the Manhattan firm of Phillips & Phillips, which represented Veronica Cajamarca, a former employee of the Regal Entertainment Company, who claims that Otis Gadsden, her co-worker at the theater business, had masturbated in front of her in a break room.
The judge's Aug. 31 sanctions ruling doesn't name the lawyer or lawyers whose performance he criticized. Partner Williams Phillips and of counsel Jesse Curtis Rose both appeared in the case.
"We respectfully disagree with the decision and all material aspects," Rose said in an interview. But he said his firm respects the court and will not appeal.
Phillips declined to comment.
In late May, Cogan granted summary judgment in favor of Regal and Gadsden. He found that the company had an adequate antidiscrimination policy, and it was reasonably implemented.
Defense attorney Maurice Ross of Barton LLP then requested attorney fees as the prevailing party in the Title VII action and sanctions against Phillips & Phillips under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and 28 U.S.C. §1927.
Ross claimed the plaintiff's counsel engaged in "egregious misconduct" by failing to place a litigation hold on the contents of Cajamarca's computer, allowing her to erase evidence, and by submitting an expert report that they should have known was "grossly misleading and inadequate."