A local home health agency and its chief executive officer must pay some $105,000 in attorney fees for refusing to produce documents to former employees who are being sued for embezzlement, a Fourth Judicial District Court judge ruled this week.
United Home Care and its CEO, Danny Jones, must pay all attorney fees incurred in their lawsuit against Charles Simpson, United’s former chief operating officer, and Charles Gardner, United’s former chief financial officer, as of May 14 if they plan to pursue their claims against the pair.
The order requiring payment of attorney fees was signed May 14 by Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Danny Ellender, who is presiding over Jones’ lawsuit against Simpson and Gardner.
Jones sued Simpson and Gardner in April 2017, accusing the pair of embezzling money from the home health agency. Simpson and Gardner filed a counter lawsuit against Jones, arguing he was trying to conceal his participation in the embezzlement by accusing them of criminal acts.
Since the lawsuit was filed, numerous allegations surfaced concerning the three executives’ use of company funds for personal gain. Millions of dollars in company funds were allegedly embezzled, and those funds were allegedly used to pay personal credit card debts, personal travel expenses and more.
For several months, Simpson and Gardner have argued that Jones failed to produce several documents requested through discovery. As of last month, the pair filed five motions to compel discovery, and Ellender threatened to dismiss Jones’ lawsuit if he did not comply with the discovery requests.
Jones was ordered to pay all attorney fees incurred by the defense as of May 14 in light of his “culpability with regard to discovery,” according to Ellender’s order.
“While the Court believes Plaintiffs are finally attempting to comply with the Order, nonetheless, their belated attempt has not relieved Defendants of the substantial time and expenses they have incurred to obtain compliance with what should have been produced months ago,” Ellender’s May 14 order stated.
Between early March and April 10, some 29,000 documents were supposedly produced to the defendants. Jones’ attorney pledged to produce more as requested. Ellender said he viewed the production as a sign of compliance.
“It is certain Plaintiffs’ discovery violations have prejudiced Defendants’ trial preparation to date; however, while some of Plaintiffs’ behavior may have been willful, the deposition excerpts provided seems to suggest a lack of knowledge on many issues by Jones, misinterpretations and/or possibly even miscommunication between client and his attorney at the time,” Ellender’s order stated. “While Plaintiffs’ compliance may not be complete to date, the most recent production has been substantial.”
Any outstanding discovery requests also must be answered by June 4, or Jones will face dismissal of his claims.
The $105,000 Ellender ordered Jones to pay represented the all attorney fees incurred by four attorneys as of May 14. Gardner is represented by J. Todd Benson, with the Shreveport law firm Ayres, Shelton, Williams, Benson & Paine and Monroe attorney Cameron Murray.
Simpson’s attorneys include Michael Davis and Tim Hartdegen, with the Baton Rouge law firm Hymel, Davis & Petersen.
Meanwhile, Ellender’s order reiterated a previous order that no “corporate documents of any kind, whether digital, paper, or otherwise, be destroyed and/or altered.”
Simpson and Gardner’s attorneys previously asked the court for an opportunity to prove Jones had concealed or destroyed documents that were needed for their clients’ defense.
“Should Defendants be able to establish any documents were intentionally destroyed as a result of this litigation, the Court will consider imposing significant sanctions, including possible dismissal,” stated Ellender’s order.