Spencer v. Aranda et al
ORDER on Damages by Judge Christine M. Arguello on 11/30/2018. (swest)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge Christine M. Arguello
Civil Action No. 16-cv-01298-CMA-MJW
JUAN RAMON ARANDA,
ORDER ON DAMAGES
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Tabitha Spencer’s Motion for Default
Judgment against Defendant Juan Ramon Aranda. (Doc. # 34.) For the following
reasons, the Court grants the motion and awards Plaintiff $10,558.94 in damages.
The events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred on March 9, 2015 when Plaintiff
visited Salud Family Health Centers clinic for medical treatment. (Doc. # 4 at 2.) In an
examination room, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, a medical assistant at the clinic,
made a number of sexual comments and advances toward her, including pushing
himself onto her, kissing her, grabbing “the right side of her buttocks,” and rubbing her
bare back. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff adds that when she returned home from the clinic, she
received several text messages from Defendant, who she claims retrieved her phone
number from her medical files. (Id. at 3–4.)
Based on these events, Plaintiff contacted law enforcement who contacted
Defendant on March 12, 2016. (Id.) Defendant admitted to making the sexual
advances and sending the text messages but stated that he thought Plaintiff wanted him
to do so. (Id.) Defendant was arrested and charged with unlawful sexual conduct and
harassment. (Id.) He pled guilty to both charges. (Id.)
On March 9, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this suit against Defendant, bringing claims
for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and
negligence per se. (Doc. # 1.) On March 3, 2017, based on Defendant’s failure to
defend or otherwise appear in this lawsuit, Plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking a
default judgment against him. (Doc. # 34.)
On August 24, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on this motion,
following which the Court found that, because Defendant failed to defend or otherwise
appear in this lawsuit, default judgment was proper under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 55. The Court also found that there was a legitimate basis for relief, as
presented in the Complaint and at the hearing, on Plaintiff’s claims for assault, battery,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.
The only remaining issue before the Court was the amount of damages
awardable on those claims, which the Court took under advisement. The Court also
permitted Plaintiff to file supplemental briefing on damages—briefing that would
incorporate evidence from the hearing, supporting documentation from Plaintiff’s
medical providers, and applicable legal authority.
On October 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Brief For Damages wherein she requests that
this Court award her a total $210,558.94. (Doc. # 51.) That total represents $558.94 for
Medicare reimbursements; $150,000.00 for past pain and suffering, mental anguish,
and loss of enjoyment of life; and $60,000.00 for future pain and suffering, mental
anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. The Court addresses each request in turn.
Default judgment cannot be fully entered against a defaulting defendant until the
amount of damages has been ascertained. See Herzfeld v. Parker, 100 F.R.D. 770,
773 (D. Colo. 1984). When a default judgment is entered on a claim for an indefinite or
uncertain amount of damages, facts relating to the amount of damages must be proven
in a supplemental hearing or proceeding.” United States v. Craighead, 176 Fed. Appx.
922, 925 (10th Cir. 2006) (unpublished) (quoting Am. Red Cross v. Cmty. Blood Ctr. of
the Ozarks, 257 F.3d 859, 864 (8th Cir. 2001)); Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b). One of the main
reasons for this requirement is to prevent plaintiffs who obtain default judgments from
receiving more in damages than is supported by actual proof. Id. at n.2.
A party seeking damages must set forth proof of damages to provide the Court a
record sufficient to decide the matters before it. This includes the submission of
affidavits, testimony by witness, and other proper documentary evidence in support of
the claimed damage amounts. Venable v. Haislip, 721 F.2d 297, 300 (10th Cir. 1983);
Ullico Cas. Co. v. Abba Shipping Lines, Inc., 891 F. Supp. 2d 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2012). The
Court is vested with broad discretion in awarding damages. Dolenz v. United States,
443 F.3d 1320, 1321 (10th Cir. 2006).
B. MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENTS
Plaintiff requests an award of $558.94 to be reimbursed to the Medicare
Department of Coordination of Benefits and Recovery. The Court finds that an award
for Plaintiff’s total request in Medicare reimbursement costs is appropriate in this case.
This award is supported by Plaintiff’s testimony from the hearing, written briefing, and
Medicare billing records. Combined, this evidence suggests that the following expenses
are related to injuries sustained from the underlying incident:
$115.66 in charges from Sky Lakes Medical Center for treatment Plaintiff
sought for insomnia related to her PTSD and anxiety;
$78.00 in charges from Megan Auer for treatment Plaintiff sought for chest
pain and mini-strokes stemming from stress, anxiety, and trauma;
$199.53 in charges from Interpath Laboratory, Inc. for treatment Plaintiff
sought for anxiety and blood tests related to the worsening of her heart
$165.75 in charges from William McCord for treatment Plaintiff sought for
chest pain induced by stress and anxiety.
Based on these charges and the evidence supporting them, the Court awards
Plaintiff $558.94 in Medicare reimbursement costs.
C. PAIN AND SUFFERING, MENTAL ANGUISH, LOSS OF ENJOYMENT OF
Plaintiff requests an award of $150,000.00 for past pain and suffering, mental
anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life and $60,000 for future pain and suffering, mental
anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. The Court, however, finds that a total award of
$10,000 is more appropriate in this case.
At the evidentiary hearing, Plaintiff testified to the struggles she has experienced
since the incident. She explained how she moved away from Colorado out of fear that
the Defendant might come to her home. She added that she can no longer trust
medical professionals, struggles to leave her house or accomplish daily activity, and has
been diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar, anxiety, and major depressive disorder. Plaintiff
contends that she takes a number of medications related to these diagnoses following
the incident. Plaintiff’s daughter also testified on Plaintiff’s behalf. She reiterated that,
since the incident, Plaintiff has struggled to leave the house or get out of bed. She
added that she takes care of Plaintiff’s daily needs, including doing her grocery
shopping, paying her bills, and reminding her to take her medications.
Nonetheless, the record does not support Plaintiff’s or Plaintiff’s daughter’s
contentions. Although Plaintiff testified that she struggles to leave her home or get out
of bed, Plaintiff also testified that she went camping for over five months after leaving
Colorado. Further, although Plaintiff contends that she distrusts medical professionals,
her testimony that she sees numerous doctors and attends myriad medical
appointments strongly suggests otherwise. Plaintiff submitted some medical evidence
from her primary care physician, but none of these documents support her testimony
that she has debilitating pain and suffering as a result of Defendant’s conduct. Nor do
her medical records suggest that she is undergoing mental health therapy for her
mental illnesses or that she plans to do so. Instead, these documents reflect that, over
the course of the past year, Plaintiff has sought treatment for the following medical
reasons: urinary tract infections, a colonoscopy, an annual exam, routine blood
pressure checks, depression and insomnia medication refill requests, pain in her knees
and ankles, and mouth ulcers. (Doc. # 51-4.)
More importantly, at the evidentiary hearing, Plaintiff presented no medical
testimony about her mental and emotional impairments. She also struggled to recall or
detail the reasons for many of her medical bills and hospital visits. Plaintiff has not
submitted any sworn affidavits or letters from any of her multiple treatment providers.
Without such evidence, the Court cannot award Plaintiff all she requests or attribute all
her debilitating symptoms directly to Defendant’s conduct, especially considering
Plaintiff’s testimony and records reflecting that (1) Plaintiff experienced significant
trauma before the underlying incident, including a previous sexual assault for which she
sought therapy; and (2) Plaintiff suffered from several medical issues before the
incident, including a heart condition, fibromyalgia, and high blood pressure—all of which
she now attributes in part to Defendant’s conduct.
The Court nonetheless recognizes that Plaintiff has experienced some pain and
suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the underlying
incident. The Court therefore awards Plaintiff $5,000.00 for past pain and suffering,
mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life, and $5,000.00 for future pain and
suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Accordingly, on consideration of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Default Judgment, the
evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, and Plaintiff’s supplemental briefing, the
Court hereby ORDERS as follows:
Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. # 34) is GRANTED. Default
Judgment is entered against Defendant Juan Ramon Aranda.
The Court finds that Defendant Aranda is liable to Plaintiff in the following
$558.94 in Medicare reimbursement costs;
$10,000 in damages for past and future pain and suffering,
mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life; and
Prejudgment interest at the legal rate of 8% compounded
annually from December 29, 2015 1 until the date of this
judgment, to be awarded on the $558.94 damage amount
DATED: November 30, 2017
BY THE COURT:
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO
United States District Judge
This represents the latest date on which Plaintiff incurred the claimed Medicare reimbursement
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