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Day, LLC, F/K/A/New York Music Festival, LLC, Aeg Live LLC v. County of Suffolk

May 25, 2012

DAY, LLC, F/K/A/NEW YORK MUSIC FESTIVAL, LLC, AEG LIVE LLC F/K/A AEG CONCERTS LLC, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, SUFFOLK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROBERT GAFFNEY, COMMISSIONER OF THE SUFFOLK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES BRIAN L. HARPER, COMMISSIONER OF SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT JOHN C. GALLAGHER, DIRECTOR OF SUFFOLK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES ROBERT MAIMONI, CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION BRUCE WILLIAMSON, PRINCIPAL PUBLIC HEALTH SANITARIAN ROBERT GERDTS, DEPUTY SUFFOLK COUNTY ATTORNEY ROBERT CABBLE, DEPUTY SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE JOE MICHAELS, SERGEANT PATRICK MAHER OF THE SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, THE TOWN OF RIVERHEAD, RIVERHEAD CHIEF OF POLICE DAVID HEGERMILLER AND NEW YORK STATE HEALTH COMMISSIONER ANTONIA C. NOVELLO, DEFENDANTS.



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

FIELD

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Presently before the Court is the application of defendant Suffolk County (the "County" or "defendant") for an entry of partial judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) on the Court's prior award of monetary sanctions in favor of plaintiffs. (See docket no. 212.) The subject sanctions were ordered on December 30, 2010 through the adoption of Magistrate Judge Boyle's recommendation that plaintiffs be awarded the attorneys' fees and costs incurred in bringing a motion for spoliation. Field Day, LLC v. County of Suffolk, No. 04-2202, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137410 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 30, 2010).

After the present motion was filed, but before the Court acted thereon, the County defendants appealed an unrelated Memorandum and Order in this case to the Second Circuit. (See docket no. 17.) That appeal was dismissed by the Circuit on March 26, 2012 for lack of jurisdiction. (See 3/26/12 Mandate, docket no. 224.) For the reasons stated below, plaintiffs' present motion for judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) is denied.

BACKGROUND

The facts underlying plaintiffs' claims are set forth in a number of prior decisions in this action. A familiarity with such facts is therefore presumed for present purposes. The sanctions award at issue here resulted from the Court's Order dated March 25, 2010 wherein the Court granted in part, and denied in part plaintiffs' spoliation motion. Field Day, LLC v. County of Suffolk, No. 04-2202, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28476 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2010). There, the Court found that (1) plaintiffs had sustained their burden to demonstrate that the County destroyed documents after its duty to preserve documents arose; (2) while the County acted in an indifferent manner, none of the destruction occurred as a result of willful misconduct or bad faith; and (3) as it was unclear that plaintiffs suffered any prejudice as a result of the County's conduct, sanctions in the form of an adverse inference, the striking of pleadings or orders of preclusion were inappropriate. Id. The Court nevertheless awarded monetary sanctions in the form of plaintiffs' reasonable attorneys' fees and costs arising from prosecuting their motion for spoliation. Id. Judge Boyle later recommended, and this Court affirmed, an award to plaintiffs in the amount of $97, 659.51. See Field Day, LLC v. County of Suffolk, No. 04-2202, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137430 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 9, 2010).

DISCUSSION

FED.R.CIV.P.54(b)

"Rule 54(b) is designed to facilitate the entry of judgments upon one or more but fewer than all claims . . . in an action involving more than one claim . . . . The basic purpose of Rule 54(b) is to avoid the possible injustice of a delay in entering judgment on a distinctly separate claim . . . until final adjudication of the entire case by making an immediate appeal available." Wright & Miller, 10 Federal Practice and Procedure § 2654 (1998). However, "[r]espect for the historic federal policy against piecemeal appeals requires that a Rule 54(b) certification not be granted routinely. The power should be used only in the infrequent harsh case where there exists some danger of hardship or injustice through delay which would be alleviated by immediate appeal." Citizens Accord, Inc. v. Town of Rochester, 235 F.3d 126, 128-29 (2d Cir. 2000) (per curiam) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). See also Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Gen. Electric Co., 446 U.S. 1, 8 (1980)(examining the "historic federal policy against piecemeal appeals"). Although the decision to grant a Rule 54(b) application is left to the sound discretion of the district court, such discretion should be exercised "sparingly." Novick v. AXA Network, LLC, 642 F.3d 304, 310 (2d Cir. 2011).

Rule 54(b) provides:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities. Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).

"Rule 54(b) contains three prerequisites for concluding that a decision or order is a final judgment: (1) multiple claims or multiple parties must be present, (2) at least one claim, or the rights and liabilities of at least one party, must be finally decided within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and (3) the district court must make an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and expressly direct the clerk to enter judgment." In re Air Crash at Belle Harbor, 490 F.3d 99, 108-09 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Ginett v. Computer Task Group, Inc., 962 F.2d 1085, 1091 (2d Cir. 1992)).

ANALYSIS

The Court begins by noting that the award of attorneys' fees implicated an entirely separate set of facts and legal issues from those arising out of plaintiffs' substantive claims. See generally, Field Day, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137410. Moreover, the related proceedings resulted in findings and conclusions that have no material bearing on the rest of the case. The matter is therefore "sufficiently separate and distinct" from the remaining ...


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