Descoteau v. Analogic Corporation, Civil Number 09-312-P-S (D.C. Maine October 13, 2009).

In some cases, simple math just saves the day. Always remember the KISS principle, which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid!

On October 13, 2009, United States Magistrate Judge John H. Rich, III handed down an opinion denying the plaintiff’s motion to remand. The case was originally filed by the plaintiff in Maine Superior Court regarding injuries he sustained at the Togus V.A Medical Center in 2003 while undergoing a prostate biopsy. 

In April 2006, the plaintiff was notified by the Department of Veterans Affairs that the equipment used to perform his biopsy may not have been satisfactorily sterilized and that he might have been exposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV. Two weeks later, the plaintiff returned to Togus and was subjected to testing. (Not sure why the plaintiff returned to the same hospital for the testing. You think he would have learned.) In order to receive the results of his test, however, the plaintiff had to schedule a counseling session before Togus would release the test results. After counseling was completed, the plaintiff was told his results were negative for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV in May 2006. (Did you expect different test results?)

The plaintiff brought the action on behalf of himself and other similar situated who underwent the biopsy procedure from January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006. The plaintiff’s complaint lists that the proposed class would be comprised of approximately 528 individuals. It also states that each of the individuals had suffered damages in an amount less than $75,000.00. Along with this action, the plaintiff also filed a separate case against the United States of America pursuant to the Federal Torts Claim Act in which he signed a sworn FTCA Notice of Claim dated October 5, 2006. In that Notice of Claim, the plaintiff stated that as a result of this accident, he claimed damages in the amount of $15,000.

The Judge categorized the defendant’s argument in response to the plaintiff’s motion in remand as “simple.” The defendants took the number of potential class action plaintiffs, 528, and multiplied that number times what the plaintiff swore under oath as damages, $15,000.00: 528 x $15,000 = $7,920,000.00. The Judge stated that the Defendants’ aggregate sum was shown to be a reasonable probability to exceed five million dollars.

The plaintiff argued that the defendants analysis was “too simple.” The plaintiff stated that the defendants could not simply multiple his damage request by the number of plaintiffs because the defendants had offered no evidence that the other class members’ damage claims would be as much as the plaintiffs.

The Judge was un-persuaded. He stated “in view of the nature of the damages sought, compensating in the main for emotional distress, the plaintiff was in a superior position to assess the value of his damages. He was required for FTCA purposes to set forth the maximum amount that he would seek in damages absent newly discovered evidence.” The Judge viewed the defendants’ two sources for calculating the amount in controversy, the Complaint and the sworn FTCA claim notice and denied the plaintiff’s motion to remand.