“This case is lamentable. Mercifully, it is rare.” That’s how Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Beaverstock introduced an order against Mobile County steel manufacturer Outokumpu Friday, scorning the company and its attorneys for misrepresenting facts in a lawsuit over unpaid wages filed by five employees in 2018.
According to Beaverstock, the company repeatedly delayed discovery requests and maliciously placed the blame on two “scapegoats,” its third party payroll processor, Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP), and a corporate human resources representative.
The payroll records are “essential to analyzing the underlying claims, calculating whether all time had been paid, overtime had been paid at the correct rate of pay and overtime had been paid timely,” Beaverstock wrote.
Since 2018, the plaintiffs submitted five separate motions to compel where the chief complaint was Outokumpu’s “failure to produce complete and accurate sets of its own data.” The court entered 12 orders requiring the company to produce the records, and the defendant “repeatedly represented to the magistrate judge and to the plaintiffs that it would cooperate with discovery requests and comply with court orders.”
When it failed to do so, “It offered a variety of excuses, and then made more representations. Defendant then dishonored those representations. Then, the defendant commenced the whole sorry pattern over again.”
The pattern, Beaverstock documented at length in a 94-page order, “poisoned the entirety of this case,” adding the conduct was clearly both “deliberate and in bad faith.”
Specifically, attorneys for the company told the court it could not do something as simple as provide ADP’s payroll records in an Excel format, even though it was aware it could, even without the assistance of ADP. They further blamed an internal payroll specialist, who they claimed was “in over her head” in responding to discovery orders.
According to a Law360 article, Outokumpu was represented by Birmingham law firm Littler Mendelson at the time of the misconduct. Allegedly, Littler general counsel George Wood apologized to the court for the actions of its attorney, former Littler partner Gavin Appleby. Outokumpu is currently represented by Burr & Forman LLP. The employee plaintiffs are represented locally by attorneys Ian D. Rosenthal and Patrick H. Sims.
Beaverstock entered a default judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs as a sanction for the defendant’s bad faith misconduct. The company has been declared liable and is responsible for the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and expenses. A hearing has been set for Dec. 15 to discuss proof of damages.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to accurately identify the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
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