$5M Discovery Sanction Leveled Against Figaro USA

Close-up of dangerous smoke fumes

The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois has sanctioned defendants in a product liability case for egregious and intentional discovery violations. The case—Ainsworth v. Figaro Engineering Company et al—involves the failure of a carbon monoxide sensor which resulted in a young boy being gassed by carbon monoxide. He has been diagnosed with serious brain injury. The carbon monoxide sensor was manufactured by Figaro Engineering Company, a Japanese manufacturing entity, and distributed by its subsidiary, Figaro USA.

The Honorable Kathy M. Flanagan, Cook County Circuit Court Judge, entered an order based on the defendants’ repeated discovery violations. The Court found that the defendants had repeatedly and flagrantly violated the Court’s orders and failed to answer interrogatories and produce documents in spite of orders requiring full compliance. It was demonstrated that—rather than producing documents—more than 27,000 pounds of documents were destroyed. After revelation of the document destruction, the Court entered an order requiring full compliance with previous discovery orders and full production of all documents, and established a specific assessment schedule in the event the defendants did not comply. It was then learned that—even after the entry of that order—an additional 167 boxes of documents were destroyed.

The Order was specific and direct in its criticism of the defendants: “The actions of the defendants, and each of them, have been intentional and egregious, deliberate contumacious, and have fully demonstrated an unwarranted disregard of the Court’s authority and the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs.”

The Court entered default judgment, stating “It is appropriate that default on all issues of liability be entered against each of the defendants for their violations of their discovery responsibilities, their violations of the multiple orders of this Court, and their violations of Rule 219(c).”

The Court also issued monetary sanctions against the defendants, jointly and severally, based on the assessment schedule it had previously ordered—a total of Five Million Eighty-Five Thousand Dollars ($5,085,000.00). The Order stated:

It is appropriate that monetary sanctions be levied against the defendants, jointly and severally, in accordance with the assessment schedule specified in the Court’s order of December 7, 2011. Those assessments are appropriately levied from December 20, 2011 through and including March 28, 2012, being the date this Court ruled on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Rule 219(c) Sanctions Against Defendants Figaro Engineering Company and Figaro USA. Accordingly, the total monetary assessment against the defendants, jointly and severally, should be the sum of Five Million Eighty-Five Thousand Dollars ($5,085,000.00) to be paid to the Circuit Court of Cook County at the time judgment is ultimately rendered in this case or settlement otherwise achieved between plaintiffs and defendants.

Robert P. Schuster is lead counsel for the plaintiffs in this Cook County brain injury case. The defendants are represented by defense counsel, including Coronado Katz of Kansas City, Missouri.

Related: Carbon Monoxide Gassing Legal News