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Davis v. Home Depot U.S.A. Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 31, 2018

RICKY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INC. Defendant.


          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         I. Introduction

         This case arises out of the plaintiff's suit against Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (“Home Depot”) for injuries he allegedly suffered at one of the defendant's stores. Pro se plaintiff Ricky Davis brought suit against Home Depot for injuries he suffered while trying to move plywood into his van with the help of a Home Depot employee. (ECF No. 1). The parties reported the case settled and filed a subsequent stipulation of dismissal on April 14, 2017. (ECF No. 63). A few weeks later, the plaintiff filed an “amended complaint” attempting to set aside the settlement. (ECF No. 65). He filed another “amended complaint” attempting to achieve the same purpose in May of 2017. (ECF No. 66). I construed the amended complaints as a motion to reopen the case under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. (ECF No. 68). For the reasons set forth below, I deny the plaintiff's motion to reopen this case.

         II. Background [1]

         On March 21, 2017, the parties appeared before Magistrate Judge Martinez for a settlement conference and initially agreed to settle the case for $25, 000. (ECF No. 67 at 3-4). The plaintiff withdrew from this agreement, however, after counsel for Home Depot inquired into whether he had a Medicare or Medicaid lien against him. (Id. at 5-10). Judge Martinez ordered the parties to “submit a joint written status report” to her within the next three days on the status of the parties' settlement talks. (ECF No. 58). Counsel for Home Depot submitted a joint status report, dated March 24, 2017, stating “that Plaintiff had represented to [counsel] that he had confirmed there were no outstanding medical liens with regard to the treatment he had received following the alleged incident, and that he agreed to accept the $25, 000 settlement offer.” (ECF No. 73-1, Affidavit of Caroline B. Lapish, Esq. (“Lapish Aff.”) at ¶ 17).

         Defense counsel promptly sent a “Settlement and Release” (“Settlement”) memorializing the agreed upon terms to the plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 25). The plaintiff executed and returned the settlement but failed to have it witnessed. (Id. at ¶ 26). On March 29, 2017, defense counsel overnighted another copy of the Settlement to the plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 27). The plaintiff again executed and returned the Settlement, this time with his wife, Sherry Williams, signing as witness. (Id. at ¶ 29; ECF No. 73-8, Exhibit H, Settlement Agreement and Release (“Settlement”)). Defense counsel subsequently alerted Judge Martinez to the executed Settlement in a joint status report on March 29, 2017. (Lapish Aff. at ¶ 31).

         On April 6, 2017, defense counsel overnighted the settlement check to the plaintiff, along with a draft Stipulation of Dismissal for his review and approval. (Id. at ¶ 39). Defense counsel noted in her letter that the plaintiff “was required, under the terms of the [Settlement], to file a Stipulation of Dismissal within three days of receiving the settlement proceeds.” (Id. at ¶ 39). The plaintiff deposited the settlement check into his bank account on April 7, 2017, and the check cleared on April 10, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 47; ECF No. 73-15, Exhibit O). By April 11, 2017, however, the plaintiff had yet to return or comment upon the Stipulation of Dismissal. (Lapish Aff. At ¶ 49). On April 14, defense counsel avers that the plaintiff “reviewed and approved the Stipulation of Dismissal” and granted her “permission to file the same with the Court.” (Id. at ¶ 51; ECF No. 73-17 at 1). Defense counsel subsequently filed the Stipulation of Dismissal on the docket on behalf of both parties, and the Court dismissed the case with prejudice. (ECF No. 63; ECF No. 64).

         On April 25, 2017, the plaintiff filed a document on the docket labeled “Second Amended Complaint against Home Depot, Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.” (ECF No. 66). The plaintiff advances two claims in his amended complaint. The first claim contends that defense counsel Lapish “failed to file pro hac vice [sic] and negotiated a settlement without a license.” (Id. at 3). The plaintiff's second claim avers that defense counsel Lapish “indangered [sic] the psychological welfair [sic] of a minor with reckless testimoney [sic] without a license in her efferts [sic] to secure a [sic] unfair settlement without filing for pro hac vice [sic]. . . .” (Id.). The gravamen of this claim appears to concern an alleged remark uttered by Ms. Lapish off the record stating that the plaintiff was under the influence of cocaine at the time of his accident. (Id.). The plaintiff claims that this remark from Ms. Lapish put him under duress to settle the case for an unfair amount. (Id.). The plaintiff's request for relief asks the Court to “[p]lease reopen this case, and reverse this [miscarriage] of justice. . . .” (Id. at 4). On May 31, 2017, the plaintiff filed a document entitled “Second Amended Complaint against Home Depot, Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.” (ECF No. 66). This complaint reiterates the same claims as the previous one; the only major difference is that the May complaint requests $300, 000 in relief. (ECF No. 66).

         The Court issued an order to show cause in July of 2017 construing the plaintiff's complaints as “a motion to reopen the case under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60” and requiring the defendant to “show cause on or before July 27, 2017 why the Court should not reopen the case.” (ECF No. 68). The defendant subsequently filed a timely response. (ECF No. 73). On August 16, 2017, the plaintiff filed yet another “Amended Complaint” on the docket. (ECF No. 77). This complaint, however, appears to be a reply by the plaintiff to the defendant's response to the Court's order to show cause. Later, in response to an order to show cause issued by Magistrate Judge Martinez regarding the potential unsealing of the transcript of a portion of the settlement conference, the plaintiff filed another document, (ECF No. 84), in which he repeats arguments similar to those set forth in his “complaints.”

         III. Legal Standard

         Rule 60(b) allows a court to set aside a judgment[2] or order for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1-6). “A motion for relief from judgment is generally not favored and is properly granted only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances.” United States v. International Broth. of Teamsters, 247 F.3d 370, 391 (2d Cir. 2001). In general, “courts require that the evidence in support of [a Rule 60(b) motion] be highly convincing, that a party show good cause for the failure to act sooner, and that no undue hardship be imposed on other parties.” Kotlicky v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 817 F.2d 6, 9 (2d Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Relief from judgment under Rule 60(b) “is only warranted under ‘extraordinary circumstances, ' or to prevent ‘extreme and undue hardship.'” Nance v. NYPD, 31 Fed.Appx. 30');">31 Fed.Appx. 30, 33 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting DeWeerth v. Baldinger, 38 F.3d 1266, 1272 (2d Cir. 1994). The “burden of proof is on the party seeking relief from judgment, ” in this case Davis. International Broth. of Teamsters, 247 F.3d at 391.

         IV. ...

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