Friday, October 12, 2012

Forge Documents? Case Dismissed! - COTW #113

The latest Case of the Week is Amfosakyi v. Frito Lay from my home-circuit, the Third Circuit. The plaintiff claimed he was terminated based on his race and national origin. The employer claimed he was terminated for leaving work for 4 hours and lying about it.

Here's where it gets a little weird. The employee asserted that he left work for a medical emergency relating to his depressed son. He also claimed that he had previously notified the employer of his son's special needs via a written letter dated April 30, 2009 addressed to HR Rep Danielle Fritts. He even provided a copy of the letter in discovery.

There's just one problem . . . on April 30, 2009, Danielle's last name was Shultz - she later married and took the last name Fritts. D'oh! Computer forensics confirmed what was obvious given the last name gaffe: the document was created well after April 30, 2009. In fact, the file was created and written on August 1, 2010, after he had commenced his Title VII claim.

The District Court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment. But, the Court also granted the employer's motion for sanctions and dismissed the case on that basis (even though the issue was effectively moot because summary judgment was granted). On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed both decisions. As to the sanction of dismissal for forging the document, the Court specifically noted: "[t]he District Court also, in the alternative, properly granted Frito Lay’s motion for the sanction of dismissal."

What was this guy thinking? "SMH" (shaking my head), as the kids say. Easy takeaway: don't forge documents. For future reference, the Third Circuit employs a six-factor test for determining whether dismissal is an appropriate sanction:
(1) the extent of the party’s personal responsibility;
(2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the conduct at issue;
(3) a history of dilatoriness;
(4) whether the conduct of the party was willful or in bad faith;
(5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and
(6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense.