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Shiwbodh v. Caribbean Airlines Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 3, 2018

INDRAWATIE SHIWBODH, Plaintiff,
v.
CARIBBEAN AIRLINES LIMITED, Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Indrawatie Shiwbodh brought this action against defendant Caribbean Airlines Limited for injuries she allegedly suffered in the July 30, 2011 crash of Caribbean Airlines Flight BW523. After the case returned to this Court following consolidated multi-district litigation proceedings concerning the plane crash in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the parties agreed that the sole remaining disputes between them were whether the crash proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries and the amount of damages to which the plaintiff was entitled. To decide these issues, I held a three-day bench trial from December 11th to December 13th, 2017. I subsequently set my forth my findings of fact and conclusions of law, Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a)(1), in which I awarded the plaintiff $68, 093.04 in economic damages and $204, 279.12 for pain and suffering. (See ECF No. 71 (“Memorandum of Decision”) at 1.) Now before me is the plaintiff's motion to amend these findings. (ECF No. 75.) The plaintiff argues that the damages she was awarded did not include certain medical charges and lost wages to which she was entitled. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background [1]

         Following a three-day bench trial, I issued a Memorandum of Decision on March 27, 2018, awarding the plaintiff various damages based upon injuries proximately caused by the July 30, 2011 plane crash. In particular, I concluded that “the defendant proximately caused the following injuries to the plaintiff: (1) her ankle injury through July 29, 2015; (2) her knee injury through September of 2012; (3) her back injury through October of 2011; and (4) her head injury through May of 2012. (Memorandum of Decision at 1.) I also found “that the plaintiff [was] entitled to $68, 093.04 in economic damages and $204, 279.12 for pain and suffering, for a total judgment amount of $272, 372.16.” (Id.)

         The plaintiff's medical expenses constituted $55, 690.43 of her economic damages. (Id. at 36.) These damages were lower than they otherwise would have been, however, due to the plaintiff's failure “to present [these damages] in a comprehensible manner.” (Id. at 33.) In particular, the plaintiff “merely included a series of medical bills in the record” and “did not present any testimony linking these various bills to specific medical treatments.” (Id. at 33-34.) As a result of this failure, I determined that I would “award the plaintiff damages for only those medical bills admitted into evidence that contain[ed]: (1) a corresponding treatment report or other report reflecting the plaintiff's treatment; (2) a clear indication of which provider issued the medical bill; (3) a clear statement of the charges incurred; and (4) the date of the treatment.” (Id. at 34.) Without such information, I could not find that the plaintiff had carried her burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the lists of otherwise unexplained charges included in the trial record were actually linked to the plaintiff's compensable injuries and, thus, constituted recoverable damages. See S. Leo Harmonay, Inc. v. Binks Mfg. Co., 597 F.Supp. 1014, 1030 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) (“It is fundamental to the law of damages that one complaining of injury has the burden of proving the extent of the harm suffered . . . .”). I listed the medical bills in the trial record that met this standard in a table in my Memorandum of Decision. (Id. at 35-36.)

         The remainder of the plaintiff's economic damages stemmed from her lost earnings due to her inability to work after the plane crash. (Id. at 40.) These lost earnings, however, were limited to the period in which the defendant conceded it had proximately caused all of the plaintiff's injuries-i.e., from the plane crash on July 30, 2011 to October 31, 2011. (Id.) I limited the plaintiff's damages in this way due to the testimony of plaintiff's expert, Dr. Jeffrey Joy, who testified that he could not speak to-and was not asked to look into-the impact of each of the plaintiff's individual injuries on her inability to work. (Id. at 38-39.) The plaintiff did not present any other expert testimony attesting to the effects of the plaintiff's individual injuries on her ability to work during the relevant periods described above.

         The plaintiff filed her motion to amend the judgment on April 24, 2018. (ECF No. 75).

         II. Discussion

         a. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b) (“Rule 52(b)”) provides in relevant part: “On a party's motion filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment, the court may amend its findings-or make additional findings-and may amend the judgment accordingly.” The purpose of Rule 52(b) “is to give the district court an opportunity to correct manifest errors of law or fact at trial, or in some limited situations, to present newly discovered evidence.” United States v. Local 1804-1, Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n, 831 F.Supp. 167, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 1993). A Rule 52(b) motions is a limited vehicle, however, and it may not be used to “introduce evidence that was available at trial but was not proffered, relitigate old issues, . . . [or to] advance new theories” based on “the acuity of hindsight.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted.) “Nor does the Rule provide an avenue for a party merely ruing an oversight of its own in failing to introduce foreseeably relevant evidence.” Soberman v. Groff Studios Corp., 2000 WL 1253211 *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 5, 2000).

         b. Analysis

         The plaintiff makes two main arguments in her motion to amend the judgment. First, she contends that the Court should have included various medical expenses in calculating her medical damages. (ECF No. 75 at 3.) Second, she argues that the Court erred in calculating her lost earnings. (Id. at 5.) I address these contentions in turn.

         i. Medical Expenses

         The plaintiff contends that the Court should amend its calculation of her medical damages to reflect evidence of various medical expenses contained in the trial record. The first of these medical expenses consists, according to the plaintiff, of expenses she incurred in relation to her second ankle surgery, which was performed by Dr. Enzo Sella on August 21, 2013.[2] (Id. at 3.) In support of this contention, the plaintiff points to a list of charges in the trial record dated August 21, 2013, in addition to those previously awarded. (Id. at 3 (citing Trial Exhibit (“Tr. Ex.”) 17J at 1-2)).)[3] While these charges - like so many submitted by the plaintiff - are far from self-explanatory, [4] they do correspond to the date of Dr. Sella's surgery, for which there is a treatment report in the trial record. (Tr. Ex. 8C). That report indicates that the surgery was performed at Yale New Haven Hospital (id.), the letterhead of which appears at the top of the list of charges shown on the second page of Exhibit 17J. Further, the list includes references, with corresponding charges, to “sponge super sterile, ” “anesthesia, ” and “recovery time, ” which confirm that these charges related to surgery. Finally, there is no suggestion from the documents that the charges set forth in Exhibit 17J from Yale New Haven Hospital are duplicative of the $2, 100 shown on page 4 of Exhibit 17G (apparently from Dr. Sella's medical office), which the Court already awarded in its ruling. (See ECF No. 71 at 35.) Thus, because there is a “corresponding treatment report, ” a clear indication that Yale New Haven Hospital was involved in that treatment and issued the ...


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