United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
MICHAEL PIAZZA, JR.
ASSOCIATED WHOLESALE GROCERS, INC.
ORDER AND REASONS
WELLS ROBY, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Sanctions (Rec. Doc.
filed by the Defendant seeking sanctions against the
Plaintiff in the form of attorneys' fees and cost,
dismissal of Plaintiff's Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”) claims, or in the alternative, for an
adverse jury instruction addressing Plaintiff's abuse of
the discovery process and perjury. The motion is opposed.
Rec. Doc. 52. The motion was heard with oral argument and
supplemental briefs were required.
Michael Piazza, a former employee of Defendant, Associated
Wholesale Grocers, Inc. (“AWG”), filed this
action contending that his employer violated the Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the ADA when they
refused to allow him time off for his lung condition. R. Doc.
1. According to Piazza, AWG allegedly threatened him with
termination if he took time off. Id.
motion, AWG contends that Piazza claims he was unable to work
due to his medical condition and sought the assistance of a
pulmonologist, Dr. Mark T. Knower. Piazza was absent from
work from August 15, 2016 to October 3, 2016 as a result of
his lung condition. R. Doc. 35-1, p. 2. According to AWG,
Piazza contends that after his hospitalization due to
pneumonia in August 2016, he was placed on light duty work by
Dr. Knower. However, his treating physician, Dr. Knower,
testified during his deposition that he released Piazza
without restrictions to return to work and had not seen the
plaintiff since the August 29, 2016. The only evidence thus
far presented regarding whether Piazza was placed on light
duty is Piazza's own deposition testimony when he claims
that either Dr. Knower or Dr. Janine Parker placed him on a
light duty limitation.
the fact that neither doctor recalls placing him on light
duty, when Piazza tried to return to work on October 3, 2016,
he presented a note to AWG indicating that he could return to
light duty. AWG, however, rejected the note and refused to
allow him to return to work requiring that he provide a
letter from the treating physician. In this motion, AWG
contends that despite this, the note produced by Piazza that
day was forged and his testimony that he was placed on light
duty constitutes perjury.
contends that it was severely prejudiced by expending time
and resources to investigate and establish the
Plaintiff's perjurious behavior. It therefore filed the
subject motion, based on Piazza's alleged perjury,
seeking the ultimate sanction of dismissal, reimbursement of
its attorney's fees and costs incurred in the motion, or
alternatively an adverse jury instruction. Id. at p.
opposes the motion contending that: (1) he produced all
requested information in response to the discovery requests;
(2) the note is not relevant to prove credibility, because
the Plaintiff made use of the note and took no steps to
conceal it; and (3) AWG cannot show that this evidence would
have led him to being fired, because the Defendant admitted
that it never had this record in its possession. Id.
Trial in this matter and the consolidated cases is set to
begin on July 12, 2019 before the District Judge.
Standard of Review
axiomatic that this court has the inherent power to impose
sanctions, up to and including dismissal,
upon proof that a fraud has been perpetrated upon the court.
. . . [This power] is necessary to the integrity of the
courts, for tampering with the administration of justice in
[this] manner . . . involves far more than an injury to a
single litigant. It is a wrong against the institutions set
up to protect and safeguard the public. . . .
Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991)
(quotations and citations omitted).
“[b]ecause of their very potency, inherent powers must
be exercised with restraint and discretion.”
Id., at 44-45. The Supreme Court has further decreed
that “[a] primary aspect of that discretion is the
ability to fashion an appropriate sanction for conduct which
abuses the judicial process. . . . [O]utright dismissal of a
lawsuit . . . is a particularly severe sanction, yet is
within the court's discretion.” Id. The
Court further recognized that “the ...