FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO. Hon. Carmen Consuelo Cerezo, U.S. District
E. Garcí a-Rodón, with whom Carlos A. Del
Valle-Cruz and Juan H. Saavedra-Castro, were on brief, for
Schell-Asad IV, with whom Rebeca Vé lez-Gómez,
were on brief, for appellee Dr. Jorge E. Rodrí
Torruella, Lipez, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.
Marí a Gómez and Marí a Migdalia
Ojeda-Morales appeal the district court's order vacating
the jury award, as well as the district court's order
declining attorneys' fees in their favor. Because we find
that the district court improperly vacated the jury award and
because we find that Defendant-Appellee Dr. Jorge E.
Rodrí guez-Wilson (" Dr. Rodrí guez"
) engaged in obstinate conduct during trial, we must vacate
the district court's ruling and remand this case to the
Enrique Ojeda-Morales (" Mr. Ojeda" ) injured his
knee while driving and was referred to Dr. Rodrí guez
at Doctors' Center Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On
November 19, 2008, Dr. Rodrí guez performed surgery on
Mr. Ojeda's right knee. After the surgery, Mr.
Ojeda's condition did not improve and his leg began to
turn purple. Mr. Ojeda remained in Doctors' Center
Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, under the care of Dr.
Roberto Ruiz-López (" Dr. Ruiz" ).
Subsequently, Mr. Ojeda was transferred to Doctors'
Center Hospital in Manatí, Puerto Rico, where portions
of his right leg were amputated on two separate occasions.
However, Mr. Ojeda's condition continued to deteriorate
and he passed away while at Doctors' Center Hospital in
Mr. Ojeda's death, his widow, Marí a Gómez,
and his sister, Marí a Migdalia Ojeda-Morales,
(collectively " Appellants" ) filed suit against
Doctors' Center Hospital San Juan, Inc.; Doctors'
Center Hospital, Inc.; Dr. Rodrí guez; and Dr. Ruiz
alleging that Mr. Ojeda perished as a result of their
parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement. As
a result, the district court dismissed the suit without the
imposition of costs or attorneys' fees.
Dr. Rodrí guez failed to comply with the settlement
agreement when he did not deposit his share with the district
court. According to the terms of the settlement agreement,
Dr. Rodrí guez's failure to comply rendered the
entire agreement null and void. Doctors' Center Hospital
San Juan, Inc. and Doctors' Center Hospital, Inc.,
entered into a second settlement agreement with Appellants.
Similarly, Dr. Ruiz also entered into a second settlement
agreement with Appellants. Both settlement agreements
released Doctors' Center Hospital San Juan, Inc.;
Doctors' Center Hospital, Inc.; and Dr. Ruiz
(collectively the " settling parties" ) of any and
all liability. Importantly, the settlement agreements
clarified that the releases did not apply to any non-settling
co-defendants and that the agreements did not constitute an
admission of liability. Further, the settlement agreements
made clear that should the settling defendants be found
responsible for a percentage of fault, Appellants agreed to
indemnify and exonerate them. Lastly, the settlement
agreements clearly severed any joint and several liability
amongst the parties and stated that there may not be any
" leveling" amongst the parties. Appellants
received a total of $700,000 from their settlement with the
district court dismissed the settling parties from the case
and Dr. Rodrí guez remained as the sole defendant. Dr.
Rodrí guez proceeded to trial and a jury determined
that his negligent care was the proximate cause of Mr.
Ojeda's death and awarded Appellants a total of $475,000.
Accordingly, the district court issued a judgment in favor of
Rodrí guez sought to alter the judgment on the ground
that the jury's damages award should be offset against
the settlement amounts. In other words, Dr. Rodrí guez
sought to offset the judgment of $475,000 against the
$700,000 that Appellants received from the settling parties.
The district court granted Dr. Rodrí guez's
request and vacated the jury award.
district court also refused the Appellants' request for
attorneys' fees due to Dr. Rodrí guez's
obstinate conduct, as permitted by Puerto Rico
law. Notably, the district court did not
provide any reasoning to support its conclusion that Dr.
Rodrí guez was not obstinate. This timely appeal