A federal judge yesterday, criticized Lance Armstrong for not providing adequate responses to the federal government questions, saying the defrocked Tour de France winner has showed a “continued failure to comply” with this obligation in the government’s $100 million lawsuit against him.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ordered Armstrong to comply by next week or risk having certain evidence being excluded at trial.
Armstrong’s legal team previously had responded to certain written questions from the government by effectively telling the government to go find the answers itself.
“Armstrong may not waste the government’s time by stating that responsive information `may’ be found in certain locations,” Cooper wrote in his ruling Friday.
Friday’s proceedings, marked the latest battle in the government’s civil fraud case against Armstrong, which was filed in 2013 on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team from 2000 to 2004, and now it wants its money back in triple, saying it was deceived by Armstrong’s lies about doping. The lawsuit alleges the cycling team violated its sponsorship contract by doping and submitted false claims for payment while in violation of that contract. Under the False Claims Act, damages could be trebled to nearly $100 million.
Last month, Armstrong’s attorneys asked Cooper to throw out the case with a summary judgment ruling. They argue the government’s case is essentially worthless because the USPS was not damaged by Armstrong’s doping and instead received publicity and other benefits from the sponsorship that were worth far more than the $32 million cost – an issue that’s at the center of latest dispute over pretrial discovery evidence.
In its effort to gather such evidence, the government sent Armstrong a set of written inquiries that ask him to spell out in more detail his argument about these benefits. For example, the inquiries ask him to “identify the value of any earned media or ad equivalency you contend the USPS received in connection with the sponsorship.”
Instead of giving a detailed response, Armstrong’s legal team replied by referring the government to a batch of various documents, including a report by Doug Kidder, an expert Armstrong’s attorneys hired at $510 an hour to calculate the benefits the USPS received from the sponsorship. Kidder’s report last year estimated the USPS received at least $333 million in benefits from the sponsorship from 1998 through 2004.
“For years, Lance Armstrong has argued that the services he and his business partners sold to USPS for over $32 million actually were worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” government attorneys wrote in court documents last month. “Armstrong asked the Court to find on summary judgment that those services were worth more than $160 million. But for over nine months, Armstrong has refused to respond to contention interrogatories seeking the identification of and factual basis for benefits he claims the USPS received from its sponsorship of Armstrong’s cycling team. Armstrong’s failure to answer these contention interrogatories prejudices the United States’ ability to oppose the motion for summary judgment and to present its theory of damages in this case.”
Armstrong’s attorney, Elliot Peters, replied on May 11, saying he believed Armstrong had complied and said the government was trying to force them “to engage in make-work” by asking for more responses. The government’s request to compel more information from Armstrong “ought not to be tolerated,” he wrote.
However, Judge Cooper disagreed.
“Armstrong’s continued failure to comply with this discovery obligation places the government and the Court in an awkward procedural position,” Cooper wrote. “At this late stage, he has responded to Interrogatories 16 through 19 by incorporating certain portions of Mr. Kidder’s expert report. But that report did not exist when Armstrong’s initial responses were due. And Armstrong has already filed his motion for summary judgment on the issue of damages and supported that motion with relevant exhibits. The motion treats each of the contested issues more exhaustively than does his most recent set of supplemental responses, filed around the same time.”
Cooper ordered Armstrong to “respond in full or risk exclusion of responsive but unidentified evidence at trial.”
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