Five years ago, we commenced a routine, run-of-the-mill action for emergency medical and surgical services, to the tune of approximately $22,000.00, for services rendered to… (I was going to call him “Jerry Fletcher” after Mel Gibson’s character in “Conspiracy Theory”, but maybe calling him “Mel” works just as well) Mel. Mel shattered his leg, and required heavy duty medical procedures to help him walk again. But Mel had no insurance, no job, and refused to make any amicable settlement.
After commencement of our lawsuit, Mel filed a twelve page, handwritten dispute letter, on yellow notebook paper. De-cyphering the scrawled chicken scratch, I gleaned that Mel refused to pay, because he felt that my client, Reallyhonest Hospital, was part of a conspiracy to prevent him from gainful employment.
Apparently, Mel was a prominent and licensed psychiatrist in a famous New York City hospital Gigantic Hospital, and fifteen years ago, fell down at work, and broke his hip. When he tried to claim Worker’s Compensation insurance, apparently, several fellow employees lied on their affidavits about the location, time, and extent of that injury. Somehow, he was also declined any health insurance coverage. In a way that escapes me, that also related to his termination at Gigantic Hospital, and Mel filed a Federal lawsuit against Gigantic, for discrimination, or some amorphous, unarticulated prejudice against middle-aged, affluent, white men.
Soon after, Mel couldn’t get a job at any other hospital, despite his impressive credentials. How impressive? Just ask him. Four pages of the chicken scratch detailed how much he knew about psychiatry and medicine.
Nevertheless, Mel added dozens of hospitals to the Federal lawsuit, who were part of the conspiracy to prevent him from working, and who all refused to employ him. For good measure, Mel also sued the City of New York, the New York Attorney General, and various local governmental agencies, since they did not call him back, and would not help him expose this obvious conspiracy against him. If they didn’t help, they must be part of it!
As I read through his responsive papers, never once did he mention Reallyhonest Hospital, except to interpose a counterclaim for unspecified damages. Obviously this injury to him from over 15 years ago, had absolutely nothing to do with the services rendered by my client. But that fault in logic didn’t bother Mel in the least.
Nevertheless, he was, indeed, willing to settle the case. In his proposal, we could drop the lawsuit against him, and then hire him to the Psychiatry ward of the Reallyhonest. (Hire him, not admit him. That would be wishful thinking on my part.)
Undaunted, I moved for summary judgment.
On the date for oral argument of the motion before Judge Nononsense, Mel appeared. I half expected him to come into court with a tin foil coif. But he came to court in a nicely pressed charcoal grey suit. But the textual description doesn’t do him justice. Picture Walter Matthau from “Grumpy Old Men”, but blessed with Jack Nicholson’s iconic stare from “The Shining.” Mel has the Crazy Eyes.
At the oral argument, my entire presentation was, “services were rendered, Defendant consented to them, bills were sent, no insurance covered the services, and no payments were received.”
In contrast, Mel went on about how Reallyhonest exacerbated his injury, by ignoring him, as part of the their efforts to kill him, so he wouldn’t be able to keep his Federal lawsuit going. He cited the “countless” Court orders which Reallyhonest and my office had ignored. When Judge Nononsense asked me about the Court orders, I drew a blank.
“I have never received any Court order, and do not even know the index number or case which the Defendant is referring to.”
The Judge asked Mel to identify the name of the case, index number, and pending Judge. Mel couldn’t answer those questions. He could, however, explain that it was all a matter of public record, and now, his illness prevents him from remembering.
The Judge innocuously asked Mel, “What illness?”
Mel responded, “The ones caused by the hospital, Eliot Spitzer, and the City of New York to PREVENT A MAN FROM MAKING OWN LIVING IN THIS WORLD!!!” with a manner of voice and body language that would make the real Mel Gibson be taken aback.
Mel went on to explain how my office, Reallyhonest, and all the other hospitals were conspiring to drive him crazy. In fact, even the psychiatrists who mis-diagnosed his depression were crazy! The Court officer escorted Mel from the Courtroom, as Judge Nononsense reserved decision on the motion.
Weeks later, our motion was granted, and in the execution of the judgment, we located and restrained a bank account with over sixty thousand dollars in it!
If you thought the Court appearance was filled with lunacy, that was the tip of the iceberg.
Mel immediately filed an appeal, and a motion to reargue, all handwritten on notebook paper. Mel filed for a stay of enforcement, and moved to permit a stay of enforcement by posting an undertaking of $25,000.00, which was granted. But the motion to reargue was denied by Judge Nononsense, and the appeal was dismissed for failure to perfect. Before I could attempt to get a Court order to release the undertaking, Mel moved to appeal the denial of the reargument motion, as well as a motion to vacate dismissal of the appeal. The appellate court permitted Mel to file his paperwork, within 120 days, and continued the stay. In the meantime, the appeal on the reargument motion had lapsed, and so, Mel filed for a motion to vacate that dismissal. On the penultimate day of the first appeal, Mel filed for an extension of time to perfect the appeal, which he was granted. In the meantime, the motion to vacate the dismissal of the reargument appeal was granted. However, Mel failed to perfect either appeal, and they were both dismissed. Mel then filed an appeal to an even higher Court, who denied to hear the case, and filed a motion to vacate the dismissal of the appeal of the reargument motion, which was then denied. (And if all that sounds confusing, it sure was.)
Contemporaneously, Mel sent a deluge of letters to my office demanding medical records for his Federal case (yep, the one that had nothing to do with Reallyhonest Hospital, and which I have, to this day, never identified as being an actual case.) Mel also wanted to schedule meetings with attorneys in my office (not me, since I was part of the conspiracy) to plead his case. We politely declined, and told him to get an attorney, or make his application to the Court.
As such, I filed a proposed order to have the undertaking turned over to my office. By now, three years had passed, and Judge Nononsense had moved on. Taking his place was a new Judge, whom I shall refer to as Judge Penguin (For regular followers of Tales From the Front, Judge Penguin once presided over the “Don’t Be ‘That’ Guy” case).
Judge Penguin decided to defenestrate New York Civil Procedure, and direct me to move on notice to Mel, that I wanted the Court to turn over the undertaking.
I was met with a thirty page, handwritten notebook paper motion for sanctions against me. By now, I was handling all letters from Mel with latex gloves, and having them checked for Anthrax.
On the return date of my motion for the undertaking, Judge Penguin granted Mel a 90 day adjournment, to “clarify his basis for sanctions” against me. When that next date came, Mel had no further papers, and the motion was submitted, despite his objection.
Judge Penguin reluctantly granted my motion, and, as you would predict, Mel filed an appeal. However, he failed to perfect the appeal, nor make any other motion, and the appeal was dismissed.
So, after years of ridiculous conspiracy theories, we had the money. Of course, over five thousand dollars of interest accrued. And we went after that. We went right back to the same bank account, which now had over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in it. We filed the appropriate execution, and were met by, you guessed it, another motion. This time, the motion was for not only sanctions against me and my firm, but also, that Judge Nononsense was part of the conspiracy!
On the oral argument of this new motion, Mel commenced his presentation by asking Judge Penguin to admonish me to “stay silent” and “not object” until he was done. I agreed, and Judge Penguin let Mel talk for forty five minutes, while I stood by.
During this diatribe, Mel ranted about how I, was akin to a Hellenic Jew, persecuting the Macabees. (As much as I like allegorical references, this one escaped me.) I was also conspiring with Judge Nononsense. Mel wanted Judge Penguin to have Judge Nononsense investigated, have me disbarred and fined, have his money returned, and probably have me drawn and quartered. He went on to say that I was no different than a serpent in the Garden of Eden (“Survivor”’s Richard Hatch would be proud), and that I was committing “emotional murder” of him.
As his castigation continued, I spied fellow attorneys snickering in the audience, and even saw a colleague mouth to me, “I’m sorry for your pain.” At one point, the Court Clerk left the Courtroom. And minutes later, returned with six more in tow. All to watch the spectacle.
Mel’s onslaught of me placed me as a member of the Illuminati, and how I was the sympathetic face of a uniform movement to deprive individuals of their rights, including himself. I half expected him to say that I was also living in Roswell, and that I created the Magic Bullet that killed JFK.
After 45 minutes, Judge Penguin asked me if I had anything to say. I retorted quite simply, “I rest on my papers.”
This incensed Mel, who expected a response to his 1,004 attacks.
Judge Penguin directed Mel to leave the courtroom, and reserved decision.
There was little doubt in my mind that despite Judge Penguin’s distaste for me, he would be constrained to deny Mel’s new motion.
Which, he did. Despite that fact that Judge Penguin took a little dig, by denying us statutory costs for all the efforts.
Timothy Wan really is Batman. Have you ever seen Tim and Batman in the same room at the same time?
(Originally published in Debt3 Magazine, January 2011)