Watts v. Winsouth Credit Union et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Mr. Watts's claims against Brunson, Robinson, & Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A., and Steve P. Brunson are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE for reasons as outlined within. The only remaining claims in this action are those that Winsouth has made in its Counterclaim. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 5/24/17. (SAC )
2017 May-24 PM 04:27
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROGER WILLIAM WATTS,
) Case No.: 4:16-CV-707-VEH
BRUNSON, ROBINSON &
P.A., and STEVE P. BRUNSON,
WINSOUTH CREDIT UNION,
ROGER WILLIAM WATTS,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Introduction and Procedural History
On May 2, 2016, Plaintiffs Roger William Watts (“Mr. Watts”) and Roger
William Watts, Jr.1 initiated this action against Defendants Winsouth Credit Union
(“Winsouth”); Brunson, Robinson & Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A.; and Steve P.
Roger William Watts, Jr. was struck from the pleadings for lack of standing and
terminated as a party plaintiff by the Court on October 28, 2016. (Doc. 32).
Brunson (“Mr. Brunson”) (together with Brunson, Robinson & Huffstutler,
Attorneys, P.A., “Defendants”). On October 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended
complaint in which he withdrew his claims against Winsouth. (Doc. 29). Those
claims were accordingly dismissed without prejudice by the Court on October 28,
2016. (Doc. 31).
On February 7, 2017, Brunson, Robinson & Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A.
filed (1) a Motion To Compel Mr. Watts to provide initial disclosures and
responses to requests for production (doc. 40) and (2) a Motion to establish facts
for the purposes of this litigation. (doc. 41). That same day, the Court ordered Mr.
Watts to show cause as follows:
Mr. Watts is hereby ORDERED to SHOW CAUSE no later than
February 28, 2017, why he should not be compelled to provide the
aforementioned initial disclosures and respond to the aforementioned
requests for production. Mr. Watts is also hereby ORDERED to SHOW
CAUSE no later than February 28, 2017, why the Court should not
grant the (doc. 41) Motion To Establish Facts for the purpose of this
Mr. Watts is hereby PUT ON NOTICE that if he fails to respond to this
Order by that date, his claims against Brunson, Robinson & Huffstutler,
Attorneys, P.A., may be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for
failure to prosecute.
(Doc. 42 at 1-2). On March 1, 2017, Mr. Watts filed a Motion for Extension of
Time, and the Court granted him an extension to respond until March 31, 2017.
(Docs. 44, 45). On March 30, 2017, Mr. Watts filed a second Motion for
Extension of Time. (Doc. 46). The Court granted the extension but also specified
that no further extension of this deadline would be granted. (Doc. 47).
On April 28, 2017, Mr. Watts filed a document titled “Responses and
Objections To Propounding Party’s Requests for Admission,” which responded to
Defendants’ Requests for Admission but did not address or respond to the longoutstanding requests for initial disclosures and responses to requests for
production. (Doc. 48).
On May 2, 2017, Brunson, Robinson & Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A. filed a
supplement to the Motion To Compel, stating that “[m]ovant does not seek
dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims without prejudice. Plaintiff is a pro se litigant,
and a dismissal without prejudice will simply give him the opportunity to file a
third frivolous lawsuit against Steve P. Brunson and Brunson, Robinson &
Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A. . . . [o]ne way or another, the plaintiff’s claims need to
be litigated to a final order.” (Doc. 50 at 2). The supplemental filing urged the
Court to either (1) dismiss Mr. Watts’s claims against Steve P. Brunson and the
law firm of Brunson, Robinson, & Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A. with prejudice or
(2) prohibit Mr. Watts from offering “any documents or other tangible evidence in
opposition to movant’s upcoming motion for summary judgment that should have
already been produced with the plaintiff’s initial disclosures and/or in response to
movant’s request for production.” (Doc. 50 at 2-3).
On May 4, 2017, the Court granted in part the Motion To Establish Facts.
(Doc. 52). The Court also granted the Motion To Compel and ordered Mr. Watts
Mr. Watts is hereby ORDERED to respond fully to Movant’s requests
for Initial Disclosures and Requests for Production within fourteen (14)
days of the date of this Order. The time for objections has now expired,
so any objection filed by Mr. Watts to these requests will be
STRICKEN from the record. The Court previously warned Mr. Watts
that a failure to comply with its Orders would result in the dismissal of
his claims for failure to prosecute. (Doc. 42 at 2). Mr. Watts is hereby
PUT ON NOTICE that a failure to respond fully to Movant’s requests
for Initial Disclosures and Requests for Production within fourteen days
will result in the dismissal of his claims against Brunson, Robinson &
Huffstutler, Attorneys, P.A. and Steve P. Brunson WITH PREJUDICE.
(Doc. 52 at 3).
The deadline for Mr. Watts to respond to Defendants’ Requests for Initial
Disclosures and Requests for Production passed on May 18, 2017, without any
filing from Mr. Watts. Four days later, on May 22, 2017, Mr. Watts filed a
response that still failed to fully comply with all of Defendants’ discovery
requests, despite the Court’s explicit warning that a failure to do so would result in
the dismissal of his claims with prejudice. (Doc. 53). In fact, Mr. Watts’s response
is identical to his earlier and inadequate filing (doc. 48), in which he responded to
the requests for admission but did not address the long-outstanding requests for
initial disclosures and responses to requests for production.
That same day, Defendants filed a reply, notifying this Court that, as of May
22, 2017, they have not received any initial disclosures or responses to requests for
production from Mr. Watts. (Doc. 54). For the reasons explained below, Mr.
Watts’s claims against Defendants are due to be dismissed with prejudice.
As the foregoing procedural history reveals, Mr. Watts has neither complied
with his discovery obligations as previously compelled by this Court nor provided
any explanation for his non-compliance. Under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a
court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b). Additionally, “[u]nless the dismissal order states otherwise,
a dismissal under this subdivision (b) . . . operates as an adjudication on the
Further, case law reinforces that, as a result of Mr. Watts’s pattern of noncompliance with his discovery obligations and related orders as well as the
absence of indication on the record he still wishes to pursue his claims against
Defendants (e.g., such as by providing initial disclosures and responses to requests
for production by the Court’s show cause deadline of May 18, 2017), the Court
possesses the inherent power to dismiss his suit sua sponte. See Link v. Wabash
Railroad Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31, 82 S. Ct. 1386, 1389, 8 L. Ed. 2d 734 (1962)
(“The authority of a court to dismiss sua sponte for lack of prosecution has
generally been considered an ‘inherent power,’ governed not by rule or statute but
by the control necessarily vested in courts to manage their own affairs so as to
achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.”); see also Goforth v.
Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir. 1985) (“The court’s power to dismiss is an
inherent aspect of its authority to enforce its orders and insure [sic] prompt
disposition of lawsuits.” (citing Link, 370 U.S. at 630-31, 82 S. Ct. at 1388-89));
cf. Gratton v. Great American Communications, 178 F.3d 1373, 1374 (11th Cir.
1999) (recognizing that court has broad authority under Rule 37 to control
discovery and enforce its orders); cf. also FED. R. CIV. P. 1 (“[These rules] should
be construed, administered, and employed by the court and the parties to secure
the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”)
“While dismissal is an extraordinary remedy, dismissal upon disregard of an
order, especially where the litigant has been forewarned, generally is not an abuse
of discretion.” Moon v. Newsome, 863 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1989) (emphasis
added) (citing State Exchange Bank v. Hartline, 693 F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir.
1982)). Here, by virtue of the Court’s order compelling Mr. Watts to provide his
long-overdue initial disclosures and responses for requests for production, he was
expressly put on notice that the Court would consider dismissing his claims with
prejudice if he failed to timely and adequately comply. Nevertheless, Mr. Watts
has evidently ignored the warnings he was given.
Guided by the foregoing legal framework and in light of this lawsuit’s
procedural record, the Court concludes that granting Defendants’ request and
dismissing Mr. Watts’s claims against Defendants “with prejudice” (rather than
“without prejudice”) is the appropriate measure to take. No lesser sanction
reasonably promises an acceptable turnaround in Mr. Watts’s prosecution of this
case. Mr. Watts has engaged in a neglectful pattern of non-compliance with his
discovery obligations, despite multiple extensions of time, as well as a flagrant
disregard of multiple orders compelling compliance and directing him to show
cause why his lawsuit should not be dismissed. Cf. Phipps v. Blakeny, 8 F.3d 788,
790-91 (11th Cir. 1993) (Even though a pro se litigant is generally afforded
greater latitude than a represented party, “[w]hen the record clearly demonstrates
that a [pro se] plaintiff deliberately and defiantly refused to comply with several
court orders on discovery and tells the court that he will not comply in the future, a
district judge has the authority to deny that plaintiff further access to the court to
pursue the case.”). A “with prejudice” dismissal is consistent with the Court’s
prior warning about the consequences in the event Mr. Watts did not timely and
adequately cure his discovery deficiencies as unambiguously ordered.
Therefore, Mr. Watts’s claims against Brunson, Robinson, & Huffstutler,
Attorneys, P.A., and Steve P. Brunson are hereby DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE. The only remaining claims in this action are those that Winsouth
has made in its Counterclaim (Doc. 6).
DONE and ORDERED this the 24th day of May, 2017.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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