Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Delay of Va in Producing Records Led to Sanctioning

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Delay of Va in Producing Records Led to Sanctioning

Article excerpt

In his order sanctioning the U.S. government, ordering it to pay $10,000 in costs and attorneys fees for failing to produce in a timely fashion documents necessary for a case to go to trial, U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips said, "unfortunately, the untimely filing of documents or pleadings by the government is not an uncommon occurrence in this district."

The statement was made in a footnote to an order Phillips issued Tuesday in a "sad and unfortunate" case in which a woman was stabbed by a mentally ill Vietnam veteran and sued the Veteran's Administration (VA) for failing to adequately treat the man's disabilities.

Phillips sanctioned the government, the VA, for not turning over or for failing to discover medical records crucial to the case.

Those records had been requested by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Griffith in 1985, but were not produced for the opposing side until the day before the scheduled trial.

While Phillips decided the case in favor of the government and said the VA was not responsible for the man's stabbing attack against his housekeeper, he severely chastised the government - the VA and the U.S. attorney's office - for their actions in handling the case.

The main issue involved medical records detailing the history of the unbalanced veteran, who committed suicide after the stabbing attack, and why those records were not turned over to the plaintiffs.

Those records were "at the heart of the case" and known to the government and Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Griffith for two years prior to the trial, Phillips said.

Griffith had an agreement with the stabbing victim's attorneys to produce the documents, but after the trial, Griffith apparently "did an about face," the order said, "claiming that no agreement had been entered into with plaintiff's counsel to produce the records in question."

Phillips said the about face in the government's position was an apparent attempt to escape further sanctions since the government had already been ordered to pay for deposition costs incurred in the proceedings because of the late documents. …

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