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Richard J. Pleconis, Sr v. Internal Revenue Service

August 10, 2011

RICHARD J. PLECONIS, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE,*FN1
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wigenton, District Judge.

OPINION

Before the Court is Defendant, United States of America's, ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 ("Motion"). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). This Court, having considered the parties' submissions, decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, this Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Richard Pleconis ("Plaintiff") and his wife Dolores Pleconis (Mrs. Pleconis") did not file their joint income tax returns for the tax years of 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 until November 8, 2007. (Def.'s Ex. 1.) Plaintiff testified that he was aware he had within three years to file of the filing deadline to file his taxes. (Def.'s Ex. 8, R. Pleconis Dep. 85:4-7.) Plaintiff claimed that his failure to file tax returns during these years was due to "extreme medical circumstances" that he suffered between approximately 1999 and 2007. (Def.'s Ex. 1.) Mrs. Pleconis asserts that she did not file income tax returns during these years because she left the finances to Plaintiff and "never even thought of [i]ncome tax." (Pl.'s Ex. 4, D. Pleconis Dep. 18:5-9.) As a result of Plaintiff's failure to file taxes for the years in question, Defendant assessed interest and penalties against him and his wife. (Compl. ¶ 15.) On December 6, 2003, Plaintiff received a letter from the IRS stating its intentions to levy Plaintiff's assets for the taxes he owed for the 2000 tax year. (Def.'s Ex. 8, R. Pleconis Dep. 81:6-82:5; Def.'s Ex. 9.) Subsequently, on June 16, 2004, Plaintiff's bank notified him that the IRS had levied one of his bank accounts. (Def.'s Ex. 10.) Additionally, Defendant denied Plaintiff's claims for refunds for the years in question because he did not file his taxes within the three-year limitations period. (Compl. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff initiated this action on November 23, 2009, seeking the forfeited refunds and the abatement and forgiveness of all the penalties and interest charges imposed for the 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 income tax years. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Because the resolution of the instant action turns on whether Plaintiff and Mrs. Pleconis were medically unable to file tax returns between 1999 and 2003, a discussion of their relative health conditions during these years follows.

Richard Pleconis

Plaintiff is the sole owner of Electronic Measurement Laboratories, Inc., ("EML"), a company that sells and services gas detection devices. (Def.'s Ex. 8, R. Pleconis Dep. 22:12-21.) Between January 1999 and March 2001, Plaintiff worked as the President of EML. (Id. at 23:24-24:15, 29:9-12.) Plaintiff did not undergo any surgeries between 1999 and 2000; however, during this time period, Plaintiff was saddled with marital problems and an employee who had taken out a fraudulent credit card in Plaintiff and EML's names. (Def.'s Ex. 7, R. Pleconis Dep. 99:13-101:4.) Defendant submits that these preoccupations are the main reason Plaintiff failed to file tax returns in 1999, 2000, and 2001, (Def.'s Br. 3), and Plaintiff concedes that these concerns-combined with his depression-are the main reasons he failed to file his tax returns in those years. (Def.'s Ex. 7, R. Pleconis Dep. 99:19-101:4.)

In March 2001, Plaintiff suffered a back injury while playing golf and consequently went on disability from work. (Def.'s Ex. 12 at 1-3.) Despite his injury, Plaintiff continued to serve as the President of EML. (Def.'s Ex. 8, R. Pleconis Dep. 29:18-30:1.) As the President of EML, Plaintiff signed corporate documents, advised EML's management, attended conferences, and spoke with important clients on a one-on-one basis. (Id; seeid. at 62:8-63:8, 127:16-128; Def.'s Ex. 7, R. Pleconis Dep. 40:19-24, 41:7-21.) Notably, Plaintiff signed EML's corporate income tax returns between 2000 and 2003, which were filed on time. (Def.'s Ex. 5 at Nos. 26-35; Def.'s Ex. 19.) Moreover, Plaintiff was able to talk on the phone, watch television, surf the internet, drive to the pharmacy for his prescriptions, and do "light grocery shopping." (Def.'s Ex. 8, R. Pleconis Dep. 49:12-16.)

Due to his golf injury, Plaintiff underwent five back surgeries between June 2001 and September 2004. (Def.'s Ex. 15 at 8; see id. at 6.) Although these surgeries imposed physical limitations on Plaintiff, he was able to perform nonphysical work and his mental abilities were not impacted. (Def.'s Ex. 16, Malberg Dep. 12:17-21, 90:21-91:13.) Additionally, Plaintiff was prescribed prescription narcotic painkillers for his back injury, but he took them intermittently. (See id. at 21:21-23, 60:12-19.) However, when he did take them, the painkillers rendered Plaintiff confused and "out of it." (Pl.'s Ex. 4, D. Pleconis Dep. 22:20; Pl.'s Ex. 8, Pleconis, Jr. Dep. 15:20-25.) Nonetheless, Plaintiff, with the help of his son, continued to play an active role within EML. (Pl.'s Ex. 8, Pleconis, Jr. Dep. 13:10-22, 16:7-16.) For instance, in 2003, Plaintiff attended an important business conference for EML in New Orleans, LA. (Def.'s Ex. 7, R. Pleconis Dep. 40:19-24, 41:2-21.)

Sometime in late 2004 or early 2005, Plaintiff recovered from these surgeries. (SeeDef.'s Ex. 16, Malberg Dep. 74:14-75:3.) At some point in 2006, his back condition stabilized and no further surgeries were necessary. (Id. at 77:12-15.)

In addition to his back injury, Plaintiff suffered from a heart condition, sleep apnea, obstructive sleep, and restless leg syndrome from March 2001 to December 2005.*fn2 Plaintiff was also diagnosed with an OxyContin dependency in 2003. (Pl.'s Ex. 7, Das Dep. 20:16-18.) Plaintiff underwent heart surgery in August 2001 and again in March 2005. (Def.'s Ex. 17, Jeganathan Dep. 28:2-6; Def.'s Ex. 15 at 6, 7.) His cardiologist testified that the surgeries could have caused Plaintiff to become forgetful, but such forgetfulness could only be a "short-term thing" and would not cause Plaintiff to forget to pay income taxes. (Def.'s Ex. 17, Jeganathan Dep. at 78:5-79:3, 79:13-21.)

By the end of 2005, Plaintiff's condition had improved and most of his pain "ha[d] been resolved." (Pl.'s Ex. 7, Das Dep. 51:12-14.) On or around December 2005, after he became ineligible for disability payments, Plaintiff took on the administrative responsibilities at EML. (Def.'s Ex. 7, R. Pleconis Dep. 31:23-32:23, 34:10-17.) By January 2006, his heart issues had improved and stabilized and his sleep apnea "was completely controlled." (Def.'s Ex. 17, Jeganathan Dep. 56:14-57:1, 57:3-19; Def.'s Ex. 18, Das Dep. 12:2-3.)

Mrs. Pleconis

From approximately 1994 to 2003, Mrs. Pleconis worked as a part-time secretary for Rutgers University ("Rutgers"). (Def.'s Ex. 6, Pleconis D. Dep. 10:21-12:2.) However, between 2003 and 2006, she worked at this job on a full-time basis. (Id. at 11:21-12:12.) Mrs. Pleconis also worked for Plaintiff's company, EML, during the tax years in question, but the exact dates of her employment there are uncertain. (Id. at 12:13-25; Def.'s Ex. 8, R. Pleconis Dep. 56:24-57:18.) Although Plaintiff testified that he needed help paying the bills in 2000, (Def.'s Ex. 7, R. Pleconis Dep. 98:3-10), his wife claims that it was still his responsibility to pay the bills even when he was "out of it." (Pl.'s Ex 4, D. Pleconis Dep. 24:12-15.) Mrs. Pleconis also testified that she "never even thought of income tax" because her husband "always took care of the income tax" and she "had no information to file" their taxes. (Pl.'s Ex. 4, D. Pleconis Dep. 18:8-14.) Although Mrs. Pleconis stated that she could not have filed their taxes, she asserted that EML's accountant, Alex Licari, assisted her and her husband with preparing their personal tax returns. (Id. at 18:24-19:7.) She also testified that she did not have any ...


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