Cheated Nurse Wins Punitive Damages in Fraud Trial
Mon, Jul 11 2011 02:43 PM
My client is a hard-working registered nurse who wanted to expand his business into a group home and perhaps a home health agency. A fellow countrymen was recommended to him. This countrymen told him that he had a PhD in psychology from Harvard and worked as a chief clinical psychologist for the District of Columbia government. He assured my client that he could get him through the paperwork and licensing applications procedure. My client paid this man $25,000 and in return received a binder which purported to contain the information necessary to obtain a license.
My client went to his application hearing and was advised by the hearing examiner that the information in the binder was irrelevant, that my client needed to demonstrate a compelling and unique need in order to obtain the license and this type of license has not been issued for the past four years. Additionally, many questions needed to be answered which the binder did not address.
My client went back to his consultant who promised to work something out but merely managed to put off my client and avoid my client and not return any of the money. My client found other people likewise duped by this consultant.
My firm sued the consultant for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud. Prior to trial we were able to obtain judgment in three of the counts in the amount of $25,000. We had requested that the defendant admit to facts that we posed. This is a discovery device. It is called request for admissions of facts and genuineness of documents. We used it to establish approximately 80 facts which conclusively established that my client paid the money, that the defendant did not provide the services, that the defendant made representations that were false, etc. My firm moved for summary judgment based on these undisputed facts and received a judgment of $25,000.
The fraud count remained. We appeared for trial as did the defendant and his attorney. The defendant wanted to introduce documents into evidence which were never revealed to the plaintiff. Some months prior to the trial we had requested those documents from the defendants. They were never produced. Months prior to trial we asked the court for assistance and received an order compelling the defendant to turnover the documents. The defendant never did so. The judge was not inclined to allow the defendant to use those documents at trial.
The defendant next tried to set aside the request for admissions of fact which had been so damaging. I argued that the defendant had many opportunities to address these admissions of fact and had failed to do so. Setting them aside on the day of trial would cause great prejudice to the plaintiff's case and the judge agreed.
At trial we put on several witnesses to prove the defendants deceit and dishonesty. The defendant took the stand and did not fare very well under cross examination. I called the defendant in our case to establish his net worth. Despite stating that he owned the company and did the books for the company and collected the money for the company he had no idea what the gross receipts were for calendar years 2010 and 2009 and 2008. He could not even tell the judge within $100,000 what the company's income was.
When the judge rendered his verdict he found the defendant not to be credible, found that not only did we prove our case through the request for admission of fact but we also prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed fraud through the testimony of the witnesses on the stand. The judge awarded $25,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.
I hope that the public record of the trial will alert other potential victims of the fraudulent nature of the defendant's business.