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Allen v. DeLuca

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 29, 2019

Melanie Allen, Plaintiff,
Robert F. DeLuca, M.D., P.A., and, Robert F. DeLuca, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS [DE 80');">80');">80');">80]


         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Plaintiff Melanie Allen's Motion for Sanctions [DE 80');">80');">80');">80]. This matter was referred to the undersigned by United States District. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. See DE 87. Plaintiff filed her motion on August 25, 2019. Defendant responded on September 16, 2019 [DE 91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91]. Plaintiff filed a Reply to Defendant's Response on September 27, 2019 [DE 95]. This matter is ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions [DE 86] is DENIED.

         I. Background

         This case concerns an action to recover overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201. Plaintiff filed suit on September 19, 2018. The case proceeded to a bench trial and Plaintiff prevailed. During the pretrial stage and at trial, Plaintiff was represented by attorney Philip Michael Cullen, III. Defendants were represented by attorneys Gregory S. Sconzo and Joseph G. Sconzo (collectively, "Defendants' Counsel"). Plaintiff now seeks sanctions against Defendants' Counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1927.[1]

         According to Defendants' Counsel, after Plaintiff filed suit, Defendants met with and retained them as counsel on October 11, 2018. [DE 91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91, p.3]. Defendants informed Defendants' Counsel that Plaintiff had "never worked a single hour of overtime" and "provid[ed] the names of fellow employees of Plaintiff who verified the business hours" of Defendants' business "and that no employee worked overtime." Id. Defendants' Counsel then investigated Defendants' claim by obtaining the affidavit of Defendants' office manager and witness statements from Plaintiffs coworkers. Id. After that, although the parties discussed resolution of the case, Plaintiffs settlement offer was "emphatically rejected" by Defendants. [DE 91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91, p. 3].

         Defendants' Counsel then, based on their assessment of the merits of the case, sent a letter to Plaintiffs attorney, Philip Michael Cullen, III, that advised that they believed Plaintiffs case was without merit, explained their reasons for believing so, and stated that Defendants would permit Plaintiff to withdraw her complaint before Defendants responded to it and before Defendants pursued all available remedies, including sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.p. 11. Id. at p. 4.

         Defendants' Counsel then filed a motion to dismiss [DE 18], which the Court granted without prejudice [DE 28]. Ultimately, Plaintiff adequately amended her complaint [DEs 29, 43], and the case proceeded toward a bench trial. After discovery, Defendants' Counsel, based on additional affidavits from Defendants' employees, filed a motion for summary judgment [DE 37]. Because of Plaintiffs "inconsistent testimony to her written discovery responses, as well as between questions within the same deposition," Defendants' Counsel titled their motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss "for fraud on the court." [DE 91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91');">91, p. 4]. The Court ultimately denied the motion. [DE 51].

         Accordingly, the case proceeded to a bench trial on July 3, 2019, before the Honorable United States District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. [DE 61]. At the conclusion of the bench trial, Judge Dimitrouleas found in Plaintiffs favor, holding on July 9, 2019, that Defendants had failed to pay Plaintiff overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. [DE 62]. One month later, on August 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for sanctions [DE 80');">80');">80');">80].

         II. Plaintiffs Pending Motion for Sanctions [DE 80');">80');">80');">80]

         Plaintiff argues the Court should sanction Defendants' Counsel because "[h]aving read the complaint," they "did not take the statements in it as true and file an answer admitting liability." [DE 80');">80');">80');">80, p. 6]. She contends that Defendants' Counsel should not have trusted their client "and his minions" and "would have lost nothing had [they] kept their threats to themselves. Having not done so, [Defendants' Counsel] should be required to pay for their misconduct." [DE 80');">80');">80');">80, p. 7].

         Defendants' Counsel vehemently oppose Plaintiffs' motion, arguing that Plaintiffs motion is meritless as they were merely providing their client with competent and zealous representation.

         III. Discussion and Analysis

         Plaintiff seeks sanctions against Defendants' Counsel under both 28 U.S.C. § 1927 (which Plaintiffs counsel incorrectly cited as "18 U.S.C. 1972") and this Court's ...

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