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CARON v. TRAVELERS PROPERTY AND CAS. CORP.

September 30, 1999

WILFRED R. CARON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE TRAVELERS PROPERTY AND CASUALTY CORP., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

In this case, plaintiff Wilfred R. Caron, an attorney, contends that defendant The Travelers Property and Casualty Corporation ("Travelers") fraudulently induced him to leave a job at the Department of Justice ("DOJ") for a position at Travelers. The claim of fraud is based on alleged misrepresentations and omissions made to Caron by his friend of more than forty years, Samuel F. Simone.

In 1989, when Caron became dissatisfied with his job at DOJ, he considered giving up the practice of law to become a monk. Instead, he embarked on a massive search to find a new job. When his efforts were wholly unsuccessful, he turned to Simone, who was then an attorney employed by Travelers. Simone was able to obtain a job for Caron at Travelers.

After approximately a year, however, Caron's employment with Travelers was terminated. He was unsuccessful in his efforts to find new employment. He then commenced this action, alleging that Travelers — and in particular his friend Simone — had fraudulently induced him to leave DOJ.

The case was tried to a jury. The jury found that Travelers had defrauded Caron and awarded him $250,000 in damages.

Travelers moves for judgment as a matter of law dismissing the amended complaint, or, alternatively, for a new trial. Caron moves for prejudgment interest.

Caron's motion for prejudgment interest is denied as moot.

SUMMARY OF THE CASE

The following facts are drawn from Caron's trial testimony or are otherwise undisputed, and all conflicts in the evidence have been resolved in his favor:

Caron is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer who has been practicing law for more than forty years. He held various jobs in both the private and public sectors, and in 1987 he became a limited partner in a Washington, D.C. law firm. By March 1988, he was asked to leave because he was not "sufficiently profitable for the firm." (Tr. 46). He remained at the firm for several more months. He eventually obtained a position with the Office of Legal Policy at DOJ as senior counsel, starting in October 1988. He had not received any other job offers when he accepted the DOJ position.

Caron soon became dissatisfied with his job at DOJ. He attempted to obtain a different position within DOJ, but was unsuccessful. He then took an extended unpaid leave of absence, from September 1989 to mid-April 1990, during which he considered, among other things, giving up the practice of law and becoming a monk. He decided against that option after spending four weeks in a monastery and instead embarked on an extensive job search, applying for a wide range of legal and non-legal jobs in the private and public sectors all over the country. He sent out more than eighty resumes and applied for such jobs as law school dean, Chief of Drug Policy for the City of Memphis, general counsel for an association, director of compliance for a securities brokerage firm, legal trainer for a law firm, and other law firm positions. He responded to advertisements and also sent unsolicited letters to law firms and recruiting firms. He did not, however, receive one job offer.

On January 22, 1990, Caron telephoned Simone, who was then serving as the managing partner of Travelers's White Plains staff law office ("SLO").*fn1 Caron and Simone had attended high school together, as well as two years of college and part of law school. Until the instant lawsuit, they had been members of a group of friends that had remained in touch for more than forty years. In fact, Caron met his wife through Simone and Simone was in Caron's wedding party.

Caron understood that Simone was in charge of what was, "in essence, . . . a negligence office for Travelers in White Plains." (Tr. 221). Caron called Simone to seek his help in finding a job, and Simone arranged an interview for Caron with Travelers's New York City SLO. Simone did so to help a friend, and Caron conceded at trial that he "doubted" that there was "anything in it" for Simone when Simone arranged the interview. (Tr. 222-23). Caron went to the interview with the understanding that he would be interviewing not for a position as head of a centralized appeals office for Travelers, but as an attorney doing appeals within the New York City SLO. Caron was advised at the interview, however, that there was no position available for him in the New York City SLO. Caron testified that he would have accepted the position had it been offered to him. (Tr. 223-25).

The next day, Caron met with Simone and "pitched" the idea that Travelers consolidate all of its New York appellate work in a single office and hire Caron to run the office. At the time, Travelers was not looking for an appellate lawyer, had not advertised for one, had not contemplated consolidating its appellate work in one office, and had not been seeking to recruit Caron away from DOJ. (Tr. 230-31). Simone told Caron that he would take up Caron's proposal with his superiors at Travelers. To assist Simone, Caron drafted a two-page letter, dated April 10, 1990, setting forth the benefits of consolidating Travelers's appellate work. (PX 8). He later supplemented the letter with an addendum. (PX 8). Neither document reflected any understanding by Caron that Travelers would require SLOs to send their appeals to a central appeals office.

Simone raised the idea of an appeals project with Oliver Dickins, who was then head of the staff counsel operations for Travelers. Dickins told Simone that the project sounded like a good idea, as long as it was cost-effective. Dickins asked Simone to check with the managers of other SLOs. Simone did so, and he reported to Caron that all but one of the SLO managers were "supportive" or "positive." (Tr. 67, 231-33, 337).

In May 1990, Simone called Caron and informed him that if Caron were hired, he would have to start out as an appellate lawyer in Simone's SLO, an arrangement that, as Caron testified, "didn't particularly disturb [him.]" (Tr. 72). Caron and Simone met, at Simone's mother's house over a spaghetti dinner, to discuss the matter, and Caron's only real concern was that he not be required routinely to do "the usual work of a trial [lawyer] doing defense work for insurance companies." (Tr. 73). Caron asked Simone about job security and Simone told him that as long as his performance was good, there should not be a problem.

Caron completed and signed an employment application, in which he acknowledged that "[e]mployment at The Travelers is for no fixed period of time and may be terminated by [him] or The Travelers at any time, with or without cause, and with or without advance notice." (DX 125). Caron was aware that if he ...


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