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Allen v. Robinson

October 19, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S.D.J.



Leonard Allen brings this diversity action against Helen Robinson Cox for damages arising out of an alleged oral contract wherein Cox agreed to pay Allen for helping her recover from a serious illness while they resided together as domestic partners. Following Cox's motion to dismiss, Allen's sole remaining claim is premised on breach of contract.*fn1 Cox now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procdure 56(a) on the grounds that (1) Allen's alleged contract is barred by the statute of frauds; (2) Allen has failed to prove the existence and/or performance of the contract; and (3) Allen has acted in bad faith in discovery thereby destroying evidence and warranting dismissal. For the following reasons, Cox's motion is granted in full and this case is dismissed.


A. The Parties

Allen and Cox lived together in New York City as domestic partners for more than two decades prior to 2008.*fn3 Allen is a seventy-year-old man who retired from, and now collects a pension from the Consolidated Edison Railroad, Northeast.*fn4 He currently resides in New York.*fn5 Cox is a fifty-five-year-old woman who once worked as a bus driver for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.*fn6 She currently resides in South Carolina.*fn7 Allen and Cox have a single child together - a thirty-year-old mentally retarded son named Joseph.*fn8 Allen lives with and cares for Joseph full-time.*fn9

B. Cox's Illnesses

During their relationship, Cox suffered a series of illnesses. In 1998, Cox's health began to deteriorate and she underwent multiple operations, including thyroid removal as well as the removal of several cysts.*fn10 Following these operations, Cox "couldn't do anything" for about a year and Allen was her primary caregiver while she recovered.*fn11 While she was at home recovering from the surgeries, Cox's health was "going downhill," although she was able to leave the house and drive alone.*fn12

In 2002, Cox was diagnosed with breast cancer.*fn13 To combat the cancer, Cox received chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and underwent a left simple mastectomy on April 22, 2002.*fn14 During the years and months following Cox's cancer and breast surgery, Allen was her primary caregiver.*fn15 Allen devoted a great deal of time after the 2002 surgery to driving Cox to and from the hospital, taking her to chemotherapy treatments, caring for her around the home, cooking for her, doing laundry for her, washing her, and giving her injections and medicines.*fn16

In 2002, Cox's sick mother, Juanita Porter, came to live with Cox and Allen.*fn17 During her visit, Allen took care of Porter in addition to Cox.*fn18 Cox has been in remission since January 2005, and mammograms since that time have not revealed any recurrent cancer.*fn19

In addition to caring for Cox, Allen was also dealing with his own medical issues since 2005.*fn20 From 2005 through 2007 Allen was hospitalized "many times" because of cataract surgery as well as heart disease.*fn21 He also had a pacemaker installed in 2009.*fn22 Allen maintains that these conditions did not limit his ability to care for Cox during the 2005-2006 period, though he has refused to allow Cox to obtain hospital records.*fn23

C. Cox's Medical Malpractice Suit

Sometime in 2006, Allen informed Cox that she might have a lawsuit based on improper medical care that she had received prior to 2002.*fn24 Cox consulted with the law firm of Jacoby & Meyers, and ultimately brought a medical malpractice lawsuit with a different law firm.*fn25 Cox's suit ended with a $1.4 million settlement, and after deducting legal fees and expenses, Cox received approximately one million dollars on or about July 1, 2009.*fn26 While Allen and Cox subsisted together in harmony for over twenty years with limited means, the sudden receipt of this enormous sum destroyed their relationship.

D. The Alleged Agreement

Allen alleges that in June of 2006, prior to Cox's receipt of the settlement funds, Cox promised Allen that if he took care of her "until I get completely through this recovery," she would give Allen the proceeds of her settlement (the "Agreement").*fn27 There is no documentation of the Agreement, and everything about it - from its making to Cox's alleged breach - is hotly disputed by the parties.*fn28

1. Cox's Version of the Agreement

Cox submits that she never made such a promise at all.*fn29 Cox argues that the Agreement would have made no sense given that her health had markedly improved by 2006, and that she was in no need of Allen's constant care.*fn30 She also denies that there were any witnesses that observed either the making of or any subsequent affirmations of the Agreement.*fn31 While Cox acknowledges that there was a time when she was thankful for Allen's "comfort and assistance," that was all in the immediate aftermath of her battle with breast cancer in 2002.*fn32 Cox further points to the lack of evidence submitted by Allen to support the Agreement as well ...

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