Sometimes a cigar is simply a cigar, and sometimes plaintiffs have to produce wildly expensive trial props. In Melcher v Greenberg Traurig LLP
2015 NY Slip Op 30855(U) May 18, 2015 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: 650188/2007 Judge: O. Peter Sherwood a scene not unlike the Pumpkin Papers case unfolded. Here is Judge Sherwood on the replica kitchen.
“On January 27, 2004, Melcher’s counsel, Jeffrey Jannuzzo, requested that the original Amendment be produced for forensic testing ofits authenticity (Jannuzzo letter to Corwin dated Jan. 27, 2004, Plaintiffs Exhibit 9). On February l, Fradd informed Corwin that the original Agreement had been damaged-in a tea-making incident (Fradd e-mail to Corwin dated Feb. 1, 2004, Plaintiffs Exhibit 1 I). The first page was destroyed and the second page, with Fradd’s signature, was singed (id.; Plaintiffs Exhibit 12). On February 2, 2004, Corwin was informed that no record of creating 3 [* 3] the Amendment was found in Governale’s files, and that the Amendment lacked the standard footer used by Govemale’s firm (Corwin notes dated Feb. 2, 2004, Plaintiffs Exhibit 13). 1 Nonetheless, an undamaged copy of the Amendment was attached to Fradd’s February 13, 2004, affidavit, which was filed and submitted to the court in support of a motion to dismiss the Apollo Action (Plaintiffs Exhibit 27).
Plaintiffs arson expert the Apollo Action created a replica of Fradd’s kitchen in order to test whether the damage to the Amendment could have been done in the manner claimed. Plaintiff stored the replica kitchen, so that the defendants in this case could inspect it. Fradd no longer lives in the same apartment, so the original kitchen is no longer available for inspection. Plaintiff offered the replica kitchen to defendants, and has advised defendants that he intends to discard it if they do not take it. Defendants argues that plaintiff must preserve this evidence. Accordingly, plaintiff seeks an order instructing defendants to take the replica kitchen or waive the right to inspect it. He asserts that his obligation to produce pursuant to CPLR 3120 can be “satisfied by telling the party seeking 17 [* 12] the discovery where the materials are and providing a reasonable opportunity” to view them (Memo at 4, quoting Zegarelli v Hughes, 3 NY3d 64, 69 [2004 ]). The parties dispute whether expert testimony regarding the feasability ofFradd’s version of how the Amendment came to be damaged will be relevant at trial, and expert discovery has not yet begun. As Melcher has not shown any undue burden, the court directs that he preserve the replica kitchen at least until expert discovery is concluded.”