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Witt v. Dixie Freight Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

November 30, 2016

CHRISTOPHER WITT, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
DIXIE FREIGHT SYSTEMS, INC., a foreign corporation, and EMMANUEL ORETIN, an individual; Defendants.

          Jill N. Parrish District Judge

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          PAUL M. WARNER United States Magistrate Judge.

         District Judge Jill N. Parrish referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).[1] Before the court is Dixie Freight Systems, Inc., et al.'s (collectively, “Defendants”) motion to dismiss, [2] which has been referred to this court under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).[3] While Defendants' motion is captioned as a motion to dismiss, this court will treat it as a motion for sanctions under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37.

         The court has carefully reviewed the motion and memoranda submitted by the parties. Pursuant to Civil Rule 7-1(f) of the United States District Court for the District of Utah Rules of Practice, the court elects to determine the motion on the basis of the written memoranda and finds oral argument would not be helpful and is unnecessary. See DUCivR 7-1(f).

         In their motion for sanctions, Defendants seek dismissal of Christopher Witt's (“Plaintiff”) complaint in its entirety or, in the alternative, that (1) Plaintiff's responses to Defendants' second request for admissions be stricken and the assertions be deemed admitted; (2) the fact discovery deadline be extended by 90 days and the dispositive motion deadline be extended an additional 90 days after receipt of complete discovery responses-both extensions for Defendants only; and (3) Plaintiff be required to pay Defendants' costs, expenses, and attorney fees incurred in filing the instant motion. In response, Plaintiff agreed to extend the discovery deadline for Defendants for 90 days, but contends that the dispositive motion deadline should only be extended for 30 days, rather than the 90 days sought by Defendants.

         In an order dated October 5, 2016, the court instructed the parties to provide supplemental briefing regarding the instant motion; Plaintiff was ordered to explain in detail its failure to timely respond to Defendants' discovery requests, and Defendants were ordered to explain in detail efforts made to meet and confer with Plaintiff's counsel prior to filing the instant motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Between December 2015 and August 2016, Defendants made efforts to obtain discovery materials from Plaintiff in this matter. Defendants sent an email to Plaintiff's counsel on June 10, 2016, but received no response. On June 15, 2016, Defendant served Plaintiff with another set of interrogatories, as well as a second request for admissions. In response to the interrogatories, Plaintiff referred Defendants to Plaintiff's medical records rather than directly answering them. Additionally, Plaintiff provided no response to Defendants' second request for admissions until August 1, 2016, which was 47 days after Defendants' second request for admissions was served.

         Plaintiff was deposed on August 4, 2016. Plaintiff's counsel arrived at the deposition with a large workers' compensation file containing potentially relevant information regarding Plaintiff's prior injuries. Plaintiff had not previously produced this discovery to Defendants. Plaintiff's counsel maintains that his failure to produce the workers' compensation file prior to Plaintiff's deposition was merely an oversight; the file was “erroneously omitted in the production” of discovery materials.[4]

         In opposition to Defendants' instant motion, Plaintiff contends that Defendants did not make sufficient efforts to meet and confer prior to filing their motion. However, it appears that Plaintiff's counsel simply ignored Defendants' attempts to communicate regarding discovery matters. It was only after Plaintiff had failed to produce discovery, ignored Defendants' attempts to communicate, and provided insufficient answers to interrogatories, did Defendants file the instant motion.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that if a party fails to provide information or serve answers to interrogatories, the court may issue the following sanctions:

(i) directing that the matters embraced in the order or other designated facts be taken as established for purposes of the action, as the prevailing party claims;
(ii) prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses, or from introducing designated matters in evidence;
(iii) striking pleadings in whole or in part;
(iv) staying further proceedings until the order ...

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