APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Jay A. García-Gregory, U.S. District Judge.
Sonia B. Alfaro de la Vega, with whom Sonia B. Alfaro de la Vega Law Offices was on brief, for appellants.
Pedro J. Torres-Díaz, with whom Zahira D. Díaz-Vázquez and Jackson Lewis LLP were on brief, for appellee.
Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Torruella and Selya, Circuit Judges.
SELYA, Circuit Judge
Attorneys represent clients. A familiar incident of
this relationship is that an attorney's actions within the scope of her
representation normally bind her clients. A corollary of this proposition is the
sad fact -- but the fact nonetheless -- that the sins of the attorney are
sometimes visited upon the client. This is such a case.
The facts are easily assembled. In March of 2010, plaintiff-appellant Ramiro Rivera-Velázquez, then 58 years old, applied for a job as a boiler inspector with defendant-appellee Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (the Company). On May 18, the Company extended a written offer of employment, which the appellant accepted. Before he started on the job, however, the Company rescinded the offer.
Distressed by this turn of events, the appellant sought legal recourse: he sued
the Company in a Puerto Rico court. His complaint alleged, inter alia, that rescission of the employment offer was a by-product of age discrimination and, thus, violated Puerto Rico law. See P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 146 (Law 100). The Company, seizing upon the existence of both diversity of citizenship and the requisite amount in controversy, removed the case to the federal district court. See 28 U.S.C. § § 1332(a)(1), 1441(a).
Over the next year, the appellant's attorneys blundered time and again. For one thing, no fewer than three of the Company's motions were deemed unopposed due to the appellant's failure to respond. For another thing, the appellant's attorneys were thrice chastised by the district court and threatened with sanctions for failure to comply with court orders and/or discovery requests. On yet another occasion, the court imposed a monetary sanction for the inclusion, in an amended complaint, of claims that the appellant had previously promised to drop.
This sorry series of sophomoric stumbles sets the stage for what happened next. On September 4, 2012, the Company filed its portion of a previously ordered joint pretrial submission. The appellant failed to furnish his portion of the joint submission within the time allotted. The district court responded to this default by issuing a stern minute order. Using red font for emphasis, the court denounced the appellant's " foot-dragging litigation strategy" and warned that " [t]he next sanction imposed . . . for failure to obey a Court order shall be the dismissal of [the appellant's] complaint." The court then gave the appellant one week to show cause why his case should not be dismissed.
The appellant made no discernible effort to set matters straight but, instead, ignored the show-cause order. He neither proffered his overdue portion of the joint submission nor attempted to explain his repeated failures to comply with court orders and deadlines. True to its word, the district court proceeded to dismiss the case with prejudice. The appellant did not appeal this ...