United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AND OR RELIEF
FROM SANCTIONS AND MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
case originally concerned an action by the plaintiffs-Ultegra
LLC,  Gretchen Chipperini, and her mother, Inge
Chipperini-against the defendants-Mystic Fire District, the
Town of Groton, the Town of Stonington, and various
firefighters for the Mystic Fire District- for damages
stemming from a volunteer firefighter for the Mystic Fire
District burning down the plaintiffs' property in Mystic,
Connecticut. A jury found in favor of the defendants on all
of the plaintiffs' claims, (ECF No. 198), and the Second
Circuit affirmed the judgment. (ECF No. 232). At issue here
is Gretchen Chipperini's motion for reconsideration and
or relief from sanctions and costs (ECF No. 251) imposed upon
her by the Court in an order issued on March 1, 2017.
(See ECF No. 233). Also at issue is the
defendants' motion for sanctions (ECF No. 234) against
Ms. Chipperini for her failure to pay the costs imposed upon
her in a timely manner. (See ECF No. 234). For the
reasons stated within, Ms. Chipperini's motion for
reconsideration and or relief from sanctions is hereby
DENIED. She is hereby ordered to make payment of the costs
allotted to her by the Court's March 1, 2017 order
according to the payment plan set out in the Court's
March 7, 2014 order (ECF No. 201 (requiring Ms. Chipperini
“to pay Defendants $1, 000 per month” until she
had paid in full the amount due to defendants). Her first
payment of $1, 000 to the defendants shall be due within
thirty days of the issuance of this order.
Future installments of the same amount will be due every
thirty days thereafter until the sum owed to
the defendants is paid in full. Because of the passage of a
great deal of time since the Court's original orders were
entered and because of the time value of money, the Court is
unlikely to extend this deadline. The defendants' motion
for sanctions is hereby DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The
defendants may file a motion for contempt should Ms.
Chipperini fail to meet the deadline set out in this order.
Chipperini incurred the first of the costs she now contests
in May of 2014 due to her repeated requests to delay the
trial in this case on the basis of her allegedly ill health.
While she was requesting continuances based on her purported
inability to attend the trial, she was also regularly
attending several meetings of the Groton Town Council at
which she was able to make extensive public comments on
various matters. (See ECF No. 154). Although I made
no findings that anyone had intentionally misled the Court, I
determined that the information and representations provided
to the Court about Ms. Chipperini's ability to attend the
trial were false. (See ECF No. 167). As a result of
these false impressions, the trial date had been
substantially delayed. (Id.). In light of this, I
ordered the plaintiffs to pay the fees and costs incurred by
the defendants in filing their motion bringing these false
impressions to the attention of the Court. (Id.;
see also ECF No. 153). The total amount of the
defendants' costs was $3, 450.00. (See ECF No.
169; ECF No. 170). After this ruling, Ms. Chipperini filed a
series of motions attempting to set up a payment plan for
paying this amount-I ultimately approved a plan in October of
2014 whereby Ms. Chipperini would pay the defendants $1000
per month until the full amount of sanctions levied against
her was satisfied. (ECF No. 201). She did not, however, pay
any amount to the defendants.
the jury verdict in their favor, the defendants filed a
motion for a bill of costs, see Fed. R. Civ. P.
54(d) (“Unless a federal statute, these rules, or a
court order provides otherwise, costs-other than
attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing
party.”), requesting costs in the amount of $6, 166.64.
(ECF No. 200). Since the appeals period had not yet expired,
I denied the motion without prejudice as premature.
(See ECF No. 215); D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 54(a)1
(“Any party who seeks costs in the District Court
shall, within fourteen (14) days after the District Court
judgment becomes final due to the expiration of the appeal
period (as defined by Fed. R. App. P. 4) or the issuance of a
mandate by a federal appellate Court, file with the Clerk and
serve on all other parties a verified bill of costs pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1821, 1920, 1923 and 1924, setting
forth each item of costs that is claimed.”). The
plaintiffs eventually filed an appeal, which included a
challenge to the Court's imposition of the sanction on
Ms. Chipperini mentioned above. (See ECF No. 232 at
5). The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment in its entirety,
including the sanction. (See Id. at 2).
the judgment was issued, the defendants renewed their motion
for costs and added a request for a court order requiring Ms.
Chipperini to pay the $3, 450.00 in sanctions. (ECF No. 231).
I granted the defendants' motion on March 1, 2017, and
provided Ms. Chipperini with fourteen days to pay off the
costs and sanctions in full. (ECF No. 233). I noted that Ms.
Chipperini's “failure to pay such costs within the
time provided” could result in the imposition of
further sanctions. (Id.). Despite this order, Ms.
Chipperini did not pay a penny to the defendants. After two
months, the defendants filed a motion for sanctions against
Ms. Chipperini for her failure to obey the Court's order.
(See ECF No. 234). Ms. Chipperini then requested a
hearing on the motion for sanctions, (see ECF No.
237), which the Court granted. (ECF No. 239). Ms. Chipperini
was required to and did file under seal on the docket her tax
returns for the last three years. (See ECF No. 247,
ECF No. 252). A few days before the hearing, which eventually
became a telephonic status conference, Ms. Chipperini filed a
motion for reconsideration and or relief from sanctions and
costs imposed by the Court's March 1 order. (ECF No.
251). After the telephonic status conference, the Court
ordered that Ms. Chipperini file various financial
information under seal in a notarized affidavit, which she
did. (See ECF No. 255; ECF No. 258).
Motion for Reconsideration and or Relief From Sanctions and
sake of clarity, Ms. Chipperini's motion will be divided
into two distinct issues- her motion for reconsideration of
the Court's order requiring her to pay the
defendants' costs and her prior sanctions and her motion
for relief from costs and sanctions.
Motion for Reconsideration
with Ms. Chipperini's motion for reconsideration, which
appears to target both the sanctions imposed upon her in May
of 2014 and several other costs incurred by the defendants
during the trial. “A motion for reconsideration should
be granted only where the moving party can point to
controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked, or
where necessary to correct a clear error or prevent manifest
injustice. . . .” Dorchester Fin. Holdings
Corp. v. Banco BRJ, S.A., No. 11-CV-1529 (KMW), 2016
WL 2944685, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 19, 2016) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). The evidence in support of such
a motion must be substantial or, “in other words . . .
reasonably expected to alter the conclusion reached by the
court.” Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d
255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). A motion for reconsideration is not,
however, a mere “opportunity for making new arguments
that could have previously been advanced.” Liberty
Media Corp. v. Vivendi Universal, S.A., 861 F.Supp.2d
262, 265 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting Associated Press v.
U.S. Dep't of Defense, 395 F.Supp.2d 17, 19
(S.D.N.Y. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Finally,
a motion for reconsideration must “be filed and served
within seven (7) days of the filing of the decision or order
from which such relief is sought. . . .” See
D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 7(c)(1).
initial matter, Ms. Chipperini appears to harbor some
confusion as to the source of the costs levied upon her. She
states that, as she “understand[s] it, ” she is
“being punished in . . possibly four areas as
follows”: (1) for hiring Norman Benedict as an
appraiser; (2) for going to a Groton Town Council
meeting when she was very ill; (3) for “subpoenaing the
firemen to Court”; and (4) for not appearing at a
hearing in response to the defendants' second motion for
sanctions. (See ECF No. 251 at 1). Only one of these
reasons is close to being correct-Ms. Chipperini was
sanctioned for delaying the trial repeatedly on the pretense
that she was too ill to attend proceedings despite her
ability to attend discretionary functions in apparent good
spirit. She was not assessed any costs due to the other
mentioned items. Also, Ms. Chipperini's assertion that
the Court wants her to “pay [the] firemen for their
time in Court, ” (see ECF No. 251 at 9), also
has no basis in reality. The costs identified by the
defendants in their motion related in part to the cost of the
transcripts of the depositions of the various firefighter
defendants, along with the appearance fee of the various
reporters that took them-they do not include any sort of
payment to the firefighters for their testimony.
(See ECF No. 231-1 at 23-24).
respect to Ms. Chipperini's arguments against the
Court's March 1st order, her motion for
reconsideration is untimely. The Court issued its order
requiring Ms. Chipperini to pay the costs and sanctions
levied against her on March 1, 2017. (ECF No. 233). Ms.
Chipperini filed her motion on June 22, 2017, over three
months later. (ECF No. 251). This missed deadline
“provides sufficient grounds for denying the
motion.” Palmer v. Sena, 474 F.Supp.2d 353,
355 (D. Conn. 2007). Nonetheless, given Ms. Chipperini's