United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
RE: DKT. NO. 126
A. WESTMORE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
November 14, 2018, Plaintiff Matthew Zugsberger filed a
motion for sanctions, or in the alternative, to show cause
for failure to pay maintenance and cure, as required by the
Court’s September 28, 2018 order. (Pl.’s Mot.,
Dkt. No. 126.)
Court held a hearing on the motion for sanctions on December
20, 2018, and a subsequent hearing on the order to show cause
on January 31, 2019. Upon consideration of the parties’
filings, as well as arguments made during the hearings, and
for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s motion for
sanctions is DENIED.
Matthew Zugsberger allegedly sustained injuries while
employed as a commercial diver by Defendants Galindo
Construction Company, Inc. and Ron Galindo. In admiralty
cases, “a seaman can ‘establish his entitlement
to maintenance, ’ by proving only that he
‘bec[ame] ill’ or ‘injured while in the
service of the ship.’” Barnes v. Sea Hawaii
Rafting, LLC, 889 F.3d 517, 538 (9th Cir. 2018) (quoting
Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S. 1, 3 (1975)).
September 28, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff’s
partial motion for summary judgment, and awarded maintenance
and cure to Plaintiff during the pendency of the case.
(9/28/18 Order, Dkt. No. 116.) Specifically, the Court
ordered Defendants to (1) pay all past cure incurred by
Plaintiff within 60 days; (2) pay all past maintenance, in
the amount of $33, 476.86, within 60 days; (3) pay
maintenance in the amount of $53.33 per day going forward;
and (4) “pay and authorize on an ongoing basis all
reasonable cure incurred by Plaintiff on or after the date of
this Order until Plaintiff reaches maximum cure for his
injuries which manifested during the Project.”
Id. at 20-21. All past due amounts were due on or
before November 27, 2018.
November 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions for
failure to pay maintenance at $53.33/day commencing on
September 28, 2018, and to authorize and pay cure on an
ongoing basis from September 28, 2018 forward. (Pl.’s
Mot., Dkt. No. 126 at 3.) On November 28, 2018, Defendants
filed an opposition. (Defs.’ Opp’n, Dkt. No.
127.) On December 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply.
(Pl.’s Reply, Dkt. No. 137.)
December 13, 2018, Defendants filed objections to evidence
Plaintiff filed in support of his reply. On December 14,
2018, Plaintiff filed a request for court approval to submit
a response to Defendants’ evidentiary objections. On
December 20, 2018, the Court held a hearing on
Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions.
the hearing, the Court issued an order to show cause to
Defendants to show why they should not be subject to
sanctions for not fully complying with the Court’s
September 28, 2018 order. (Dkt. No. 145.) Therein, the Court
overruled Defendants’ objections, and denied
Plaintiff’s request as moot. On January 31, 2019, the
Court held a hearing on the order to show cause.
may impose sanctions under its inherent powers where a party
has willfully disobeyed a court order, or where the party has
“acted in bad faith, vexatiously, or for oppressive
reasons.” Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health &
Fitness, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1749, 1758 (2014) (citation
omitted). These powers, however, “must be exercised
with restraint and discretion.” Chambers v. NASCO,
Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991). Accordingly, the bad-faith
requirement sets a “high threshold, ” Primus
Auto. Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Batarse, 115 F.3d 644, 649
(9th Cir. 1997), which may be met by willful misconduct, or
recklessness that is coupled with an improper purpose.
Fink v. Gomez, 239 F.3d 989, 993-94 (9th Cir. 2001).
It is the moving party’s burden to demonstrate that the
party against whom it seeks sanctions acted with the
requisite bad faith or improper purpose. See Burnett v.
Conseco, Inc., 87 F.Supp. 3d 1238, 1249 (N.D. Cal.
December 20, 2018 hearing, the parties informed the Court
that the only provision of the September 28, 2018 order that
Defendants had complied with was the paying maintenance rate
of $53.33 per day going forward. The Court notes that the
past due maintenance and cure were not due until sixty days
after the order was issued, or November 27, 2018. At the time
the motion was filed on November 14, 2018, however, those
amounts were not yet due.
January 31, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the order to
show cause, and the parties informed the Court that ongoing
maintenance was being paid on the first and fifteenth days of
the month. The Court reminded the parties that ongoing
maintenance and cure was due before the motion was filed, and
that the undersigned had already found Plaintiff’s
course of treatment reasonable. As a result, the fact that
Defendants’ expert disagreed on the course of treatment
was immaterial at that juncture. As of January 31, 2019, the
parties agreed that all payments were being made as required
by the September 28, 2018 order. The only exception was that
Defendants were ...