LexisNexis® CLE On-Demand features premium content from partners like American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education and Pozner & Dodd. Choose from a broad listing of topics suited for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government entities. Individual courses and subscriptions available.
In a memorandum opinion dated April 27, 2011, United States
District Judge T.S. Ellis, who sits in the Alexandria Division of the Eastern
District of Virginia, taught plaintiff Stephanie Holmes that it was not a good
idea to change her story multiple times during her deposition. Finding that she
had "perpetrated a fraud on the court," Judge Ellis affirmed the
magistrate judge's recommendation to strike Holmes's claim for compensatory
damages for pain and suffering.
Holmes, who had worked as a stocker at a Wal-mart in Alexandria,
Virginia, for four years, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), alleging that Walmart had failed to make reasonable
accommodations for her hearing impairment. She alleged that Walmart had
refused to provide her with an interpreter and with comprehensive notes of
meetings and instructions, all of which she needed to perform her job properly.
She sought compensation for pecuniary losses, an injunction, punitive damages,
and back pay.
The EEOC filed suit on Holmes's behalf. During Holmes's
deposition in 2010, Walmart's attorneys asked her about whether she had
received any treatment from a mental health provider for emotional distress
caused by her employment at Walmart. First, she said, "I don't need
therapy, and I don't see doctors." Then she said she saw a therapist just
once in 2007. She later changed her story again and said she saw one doctor
three times a week from March 2004 through February 2005. Finally, at the end
of her deposition, she acknowledged that she had received therapy for anxiety
and depression in a 13-year period from 1994 to 2007 and that some of the treatment
related to her work at Walmart.
Walmart moved to dismiss Holmes's entire complaint on the
grounds that she had lied in her deposition and had failed to provide relevant
documents in discovery. Rather than dismiss the complaint in its entirety,
however, Judge Ellis decided that the appropriate course was to affirm the
recommendation of the magistrate judge to strike only Holmes's claim for pain
and suffering damages.
Judge Ellis found that Holmes's untruths at her
deposition "prevented Walmart from adequately preparing its defense,
particularly its defense against her claim for compensatory damages for pain
and suffering." Accordingly, the appropriate action was to strike that
claim. Judge Ellis noted that although a federal judge has the inherent power
to dismiss a case in its entirety, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit "has emphasized that courts must exercise this authority with
"The partial dismissal ordered here must stand as a
beacon to warn and deter others from engaging in similar conduct," Judge
the rest of the article at the Virginia
Business Litigation Lawyer blog