Rangarajan v. Johns Hopkins Univ. (P)

In dismissing three of four actions initiated by the plaintiff as a sanction for “flagrant and unremitting” violations of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court did not abuse its discretion. The plaintiff’s conduct was inept and abusive to a degree that rendered virtually useless five years of proceedings before the district court, and such abuse would likely have continued in any future proceedings.

The totality of the record in this case reveals a totally dysfunctional performance by the plaintiff and her counsel, but mostly by her. She commenced four actions when only one was proper, repeatedly reasserting claims that the district court had dismissed. After the district court denied her motion to replead qui tam claims in the first action, she nonetheless repleaded them in the third action. When the district court dismissed the third action, she refiled the same claims in the fourth action.

In discovery, the plaintiff flagrantly failed to produce thousands of documents, several of which were core to her claims. After giving a daylong deposition, she sought to undermine and recant her testimony in a 54-page declaration that rendered her deposition essentially useless. Further, she challenged the transcription of her deposition, claiming it was deliberately altered and recreated by the court reporter, a conclusion that the district court found to be conclusively false. In short, she rendered virtually useless the entire discovery process, in which the parties had invested substantial time and money.

It was also apparent throughout the entire proceedings that the plaintiff refused to follow counsel’s advice and engaged in inappropriate actions, such as communicating arguments directly to the court ex parte and including substantive matters in her errata sheet.

In light of the plaintiff’s conduct, the court had little confidence that her counsel would be able to ensure her compliance with the rules of discovery. When a party abuses the process at a level that is utterly inconsistent with the orderly administration of justice or undermines the integrity of the process — as the plaintiff did here — she forfeits her right to use the process.

Affirmed.

Rangarajan v. Johns Hopkins Univ. (P), No. 17-1834, Feb. 22, 2019. 4th Cir. (Niemeyer) from DMD at Baltimore (Nickerson).



Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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