Judge Blasts Attys For Bickering In 'Midst Of A Pandemic'

Law360 (March 26, 2020, 8:23 PM EDT) -- A Florida federal judge last week chastised attorneys for squabbling over "a routine snafu" when the "entire world is in the midst of a pandemic," saying there are "far-more-important issues this court (and the entire world) is facing."

In an extraordinary March 21 order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman said he was "shocked" that attorneys from Gerson & Schwartz PA and Foreman Friedman PA couldn’t resolve "a routine discovery dust-up" without court intervention.

Referring to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Judge Goodman offered a scathing series of "observations in the let's-keep-things-in-perspective department."

"We are living in an unprecedented situation," Judge Goodman wrote. "Nevertheless, the lawyers in this case have been exchanging snippy emails over the past two weeks over the scheduling of a corporate representative deposition."

"If all the issues we are currently facing were to be organized on a ladder of importance, this deposition-scheduling dispute would not even reach the bottom rung of a 10-rung ladder," the judge wrote.

An attorney from Foreman Friedman declined to comment Thursday. An attorney from Gerson & Schwartz did not immediately return a request for comment.

The unusual order came in a civil maritime lawsuit filed on behalf of a teenage girl who reported she was sexually assaulted onboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. The case was filed in October and is currently in the earliest stages.

Last Friday, attorneys from Foreman Friedman, representing Norwegian, filed an emergency motion regarding the scheduling of a deposition. They said attorneys from Gerson & Schwartz, representing the plaintiff, had failed to respond to alternative dates for the deposition.

The next day, Judge Goodman called the emergency designation incorrect and "frankly, reckless," but said it was "painfully obvious that counsel for both sides failed to keep their comparatively unimportant dispute in perspective."

"The entire world is in the midst of a pandemic," the judge wrote. "Thousands of people worldwide have contracted the Corona virus and there have been hundreds of virus-caused deaths in the United States."

"Millions of Americans have been ordered to remain in their homes. Millions more have lost their jobs in the past two weeks," Judge Goodman wrote. "The stock market has taken a brutal beating in the last two to three weeks. Many people are scared. Others are panicked. Everyone is unsure about the future."

The judge listed various ways each side had been unreasonable, and then said he would demand answers as to why.

"So the deposition will not be taken next week. Life will go on," Judge Goodman said. "But the undersigned will be requiring counsel for both sides to appear for a hearing at some point, even if they work out the rescheduled date for the corporate deposition."

"That hearing will require the attorneys to explain their behavior in context of the far-more-important issues this court (and the entire world) is facing," Judge Goodman added.

The teenager is represented by David L. Markel, Edward Schwartz, Philip M. Gerson, Raul G. Delgado II and Nicholas I. Gerson of Gerson & Schwartz PA.

NCL is represented by Darren W. Friedman and Jeffrey E. Foreman of Foreman Friedman PA and Avi C. Shoham.

The case is C.W. v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., case number 1:19-cv-24441, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

--Editing by Abbie Sarfo.


For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

C.W. v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.


Case Number

1:19-cv-24441

Court

Florida Southern

Nature of Suit

P.I.: Other

Judge

Cecilia M. Altonaga

Date Filed

October 28, 2019

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