727 F.3d 33 (1st Cir. 2013), 13-1266, Nansamba v. North Shore Medical Center, Inc.

Docket Nº:13-1266
Citation:727 F.3d 33
Opinion Judge:SELYA, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JANAT NANSAMBA, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. NORTH SHORE MEDICAL CENTER, INC. ET AL., Defendants, Appellees
Attorney:Godfrey K. Zziwa, with whom Alanna G. Cline, Law Office of Alanna G. Cline, and Law Office of Godfrey K. Zziwa were on brief, for appellant. Eugene J. Sullivan III, with whom Nicole Forbes and Holtz & Reed, LLP were on brief, for appellees.
Judge Panel:Before Howard, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 12, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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727 F.3d 33 (1st Cir. 2013)

JANAT NANSAMBA, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

NORTH SHORE MEDICAL CENTER, INC. ET AL., Defendants, Appellees

No. 13-1266

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 12, 2013

Page 34

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Patti B. Saris, U.S. District Judge.

Affirmed.

Godfrey K. Zziwa, with whom Alanna G. Cline, Law Office of Alanna G. Cline, and Law Office of Godfrey K. Zziwa were on brief, for appellant.

Eugene J. Sullivan III, with whom Nicole Forbes and Holtz & Reed, LLP were on brief, for appellees.

Before Howard, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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SELYA, Circuit Judge.

When litigation goes awry, lawyers sometimes scramble to find a scapegoat. So it is here: having conspicuously failed to protect the record, the plaintiff's lawyers attempt to shift the blame to their opposing counsel. Concluding, as we do, that this diversionary tactic lacks force, we affirm the district court's denial of the plaintiff's motion for relief from judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts that gave rise to the underlying litigation are chronicled in the opinion below, see Nansamba v. N. Shore Med. Ctr., Inc., No. 11-11459, 2012 WL 1856950, at *1-2 (D. Mass. May 21, 2012), and there is no need to rehearse them here. We offer instead a brief sketch of the genesis and travel of the case and supplement that sketch with a more detailed discussion of the events upon which the issues before us rest.

In 2002, defendant-appellee North Shore Medical Center, Inc. hired plaintiff-appellant Janat Nansamba as a technical nursing assistant. While so employed, the plaintiff developed hemorrhoids. During the early morning hours of May 7, 2010, she felt ill and left her overnight shift. Later that day, she informed her manager, defendant-appellee Ellen Bova, that she would need time off to undergo a colonoscopy. Three days later, North Shore cashiered the plaintiff. In doing so, it cited performance-related reasons.

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The plaintiff repaired to a Massachusetts state court, contending that the defendants had orchestrated her firing in retaliation for her hemorrhoids-induced absences in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § § 2601-2654. She added a medley of state-law claims. Citing the presence of a federal question, the defendants removed the case to the federal district court. See 28 U.S.C. § § 1331, 1441.

After a period of pretrial discovery and the dismissal of some of the plaintiff's causes of action, the defendants moved for summary judgment on, pertinently, the FMLA claim.1 They argued, among other things, that the plaintiff's inability to show that she suffered a " serious health condition" as defined by the FMLA and its accompanying regulations, see 29 U.S.C. § 2611(11); 29 C.F.R. § § 825.113-.115, doomed her FMLA claim. The plaintiff opposed the motion, but the district court deemed the " no serious health condition" argument convincing and granted summary judgment. See Nansamba, 2012 WL 1856950, at *5. The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's remaining state-law claim. See id.; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). Final judgment entered on May 24.

On May 29, the plaintiff moved for reconsideration, alleging that certain medical records -- her own -- constituted newly discovered evidence showing that her hemorrhoids satisfied the FMLA's definition of a " serious health condition." 2 The saga of these records is of central importance to what next transpired.

During pretrial discovery, the parties jockeyed over the production of the plaintiff's complete medical file. She first produced a set of her medical records on December 13, 2011, responding to a discovery request. The defendants complained that the release form used to obtain those records requested only a " medical record abstract," not the plaintiff's complete medical file. Four days after this complaint was made, the plaintiff executed and delivered a new release form. Although this form was broader in scope, it still excepted the release of photographs, radiation reports, x-ray reports, and " personal information not related to treatment."

The new release form instructed that the records be sent directly to defense counsel. But those additional records, when received, did not assuage the defendants' concerns. On February 3, defense counsel e-mailed plaintiff's counsel lamenting that:

We have received part of [the plaintiff's] medical record -- but, once again, only part of it.

You will see that -- once again -- [the plaintiff] has signed the medical release, but specifically instructed the physician not to provide the entire medical file.

Attached to this e-mail were the records that defense counsel had received pursuant to the second release form.

The plaintiff's lawyers did not bother to open or examine the attachment. On February 14, however, the plaintiff executed an unrestricted release form. Using this third release form, the defendants garnered more records in April. What they received, however, did not differ in any

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meaningful way from what they previously had sent to plaintiff's counsel in February.

This brings us back to the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment order. In that motion, the plaintiff -- not realizing that the records produced in April (after the summary judgment motion had been briefed but before it was decided) were materially identical to those attached to the February 3 e-mail -- argued that the April...

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