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Austin v. Hanover Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 24, 2017

H. RICHARD AUSTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY a/k/a MASSACHUSETTS BAY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This 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.

         I. Background

         The 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.

         Austin I

         According 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.[1] 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) (“Austin I”).

         Austin II

         On 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”).

         Austin III

         In 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).

         Austin IV

         On May 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 V-VIII

         After Austin IV, Plaintiff initiated four more actions against Hanover's attorneys and experts in federal court, none of which were successful.[2]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 ...


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