United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
H. RICHARD AUSTIN, Plaintiff,
HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY a/k/a MASSACHUSETTS BAY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Sanctions (Doc. 14). On April 20, 2017, the Court ordered
Plaintiff to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed
and set the matter for a hearing (Doc. 31). On May 4, 2017,
Plaintiff filed his response to the Court's show cause
order (Doc. 32) and, on May 15, 2017, Defendant filed its
response (Doc. 33). The Court held a hearing on May 19, 2017
and found under its inherent authority that sanctions against
Plaintiff were appropriate and necessary (Doc. 36). The Court
directed Defendant to submit its statement of costs in
defending this lawsuit, including attorney's fees, and
Defendant filed a statement of attorneys' fees and costs
on May 26, 2017 (Doc. 37). For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's motion for sanctions will be granted.
procedural history of this case dates back to 1993 and
involves several related actions filed in four federal
district courts and three courts of appeal.
to the Amended Complaint (Doc. 7) and the exhibits attached
thereto, pro se Plaintiff Austin's house in Vermont
burned down on November 12, 1993. His insurance company,
Hanover Insurance Company (“Hanover”), found the
fire to be the result of arson and refused to pay benefits
under Plaintiff's policy. Thereafter, Plaintiff initiated
an action against Hanover and Massachusetts Bay Insurance
Company and sought payment under the policy. Plaintiff also
alleged that the defendants acted in bad faith. Hanover
asserted that Plaintiff was not able to recover because he
set fire to the home. Austin I culminated in a jury
trial (Doc. 13-1). At trial, Plaintiff challenged the finding
of arson. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant,
and judgment was entered in favor of the defendants.
Plaintiff appealed the case to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed the district
court's judgment. Austin v. Hanover Ins. Co.,
Case No. 1:95-CV-170 (D. Vt. Aug. 1, 1997),
aff'd No. 97-9069, 1998 WL 801885 (2d Cir. Nov.
12, 1998), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1004 (1999)
September 28, 1999, Plaintiff filed an “independent
action” against Defendants in the United States
District Court for the District of Vermont, requesting that
the court's judgment against him in Austin I be
revoked. Plaintiff further sought entry of default judgment
against Defendant and the “reinstatement of his other
extra-contractual claims of emotional suffering and punitive
damages.” (Doc. 7-2 at 18; 13-5 at 1.) Hanover and
Massachusetts Bay filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that
Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res
judicata. The district court granted the motion to
dismiss and denied Plaintiff's motions for relief from
the order granting dismissal. Austin v. Hanover Ins.
Co., 1:99-CV-252 (D. Vt. Nov. 3, 1999). The Second
Circuit affirmed. Austin v. Hanover Ins. Co., 14 F.
App'x 109 (2d Cir. 2001) (collectively, with the district
court order, “Austin II”).
August 2003, Plaintiff filed a third action, this time
against Defendant's attorneys and experts, challenging
the validity of scientific evidence Hanover used to prove
arson. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's
complaint, and the Second Circuit affirmed. Austin v.
Downs, Rachlin & Martin, No. 1:03-CV-204, 2003 WL
23273466 (D. Vt. Nov. 3, 2003), aff'd, 114 F.
App'x 21 (2d Cir. 2004).
19, 2005, Plaintiff filed an action in this Court
(“Austin IV”), which the Court found to
be “a near replica of his previous suits.”
Austin v. Downs, Rachlin & Martin et al., No.
4:05CV800 SNL, 2006 WL 355261, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 15,
2006). In granting Defendants' motion to transfer to the
District of Vermont, the Court noted that
“Plaintiff's case clearly has no merit.”
Id. at *4. This Court further noted that “if
Plaintiff brings this or a related cause of action before
this Court again, he will be subject to sanctions.”
Id. After transfer, the District of Vermont granted
the defendants' motion to dismiss, stating that
“Austin has had his day in court, and at this point he
is simply wasting judicial resources.” Austin v.
Downs, Rachlin & Martin, No. 1:06-CV- 38, 2006 WL
2585102, at *3 (D. Vt. Aug. 24, 2006).
Austin IV, Plaintiff initiated four more actions
against Hanover's attorneys and experts in federal court,
none of which were successful.See H. Richard Austin v.
Douglas G. Peterson & Assoc., No. CIV.A.
08-30128-MAP, 2008 WL 5070612 (D. Mass. Nov. 18, 2008);
H. Richard Austin v. Douglas G. Peterson & Assoc., et
al., No. 5:11-CV-373-BR, 2011 WL 8997718 (E.D. N.C. Dec.
1, 2011); Austin v. Douglas G. Peterson & Assocs.,
Inc., No. 5:13-CV-877-BO, 2014 WL 1891419 (E.D. N.C. May
12, 2014). On September 21, 2016, Plaintiff initiated the
instant action purporting to bring it under Fed.R.Civ.P.
60(d)(1) and 60(d)(3). By ...