Robinson v. Cripps et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting 22 Motion for Sanctions, and Plaintiff Julie Ann Robinsons complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to its refiling. Signed by Honorable P. K. Holmes, III on May 24, 2017. (rg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JULIE ANN ROBINSON
Case No. 5:16-CV-5269
ARCO ENVIRONMENTS, INC.
OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Defendant ARCO Environments, Inc.’s (ARCO) motion (Doc. 22) for
sanctions, requesting that the Court dismiss Plaintiff Julie Ann Robinson’s complaint for failure
to prosecute or comply with a Court order. Ms. Robinson has not responded, and the time for
filing a response has passed. 1 For the reasons set forth below, ARCO’s motion will be granted
and this case dismissed without prejudice to its refiling.
On April 14, 2017, the Court entered an order (Doc. 20) granting ARCO’s motion to
compel discovery (Doc. 18). ARCO’s motion to compel represented that on February 17, 2017 it
served a first set of interrogatories and requests for production on Plaintiff, that responses were
due on March 20, 2017, and that Plaintiff never responded despite numerous email
correspondences between the parties. (Doc. 19). The Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to
interrogatories by April 27, 2017, and warned that “[f]ailure to respond may result in dismissal of
this action.” (Doc. 20). Plaintiff served Defendant with her responses on April 24, 2017, but her
discovery responses were almost entirely devoid of substance. (Doc. 23-1). Out of the 36 requests
for production, Plaintiff did not respond at all to eleven of them. Of the remaining 25 requests for
Local Rule 7.2(b) requires that a response to a motion be filed within fourteen days, and
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d) provides that a responding party has three extra days to
respond when a motion is served by mail. The motion was filed on May 5, 2017. Ms. Robinson’s
response was thus due on May 22, 2017.
production, five responses sought clarification of the request, six responses simply said to “[s]ee”
ARCO’s own records or the attached text messages, and ten responses consisted only of the word
“Object!” The responses to ARCO’s 21 interrogatories offered similarly vague and unhelpful
answers. The longest singular response was nine words. On April 28, 2017, defense counsel sent
Plaintiff a letter outlining the issues with Plaintiff’s responses to the discovery and provided her
with the opportunity to supplement her answers without intervention from the Court. (Doc. 23-2).
ARCO set a deadline for Plaintiff to respond at May 3, 2017. From May 2 to May 4, 2017, Plaintiff
and defense counsel exchanged a number of emails, but Plaintiff never provided any additional
responses to the discovery. (Docs. 23-3, 23-4). ARCO then filed the immediate motion, requesting
dismissal of the action as an appropriate sanction.
Plaintiff’s pro se status does not excuse her from compliance with Court orders or the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Lindstedt v. City of Granby, 238 F.3d 993, 997 (8th Cir.
2000) (“A pro se litigant is bound by the litigation rules as is a lawyer, particularly here with the
fulfilling of simple requirements of discovery.”); see also Escobar v. Cross, 2013 WL 709113, at
*1 (E.D. Ark. Feb. 27, 2013) (“Pro se litigants are required to follow the same rules of procedure,
including the local court rules, that govern other litigants.”). Objections to interrogatories or
requests for production must state with specificity the grounds for each objection. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 33(b)(4); Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(B). Here, Ms. Robinson has not complied with the Court’s
previous order mandating her responses, and the answers provided are not in conformity with the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
“A district court has wide latitude in imposing sanctions for failure to comply with
discovery.” Aziz v. Wright, 34 F.3d 587, 589 (8th Cir. 1994). Rule 41(b) allows the Court to
dismiss a case “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules] or a court
order.” Similarly, Rule 37(b)(2)(A)(v) states that the Court may dismiss the action where a party
fails to obey an order to provide discovery. Finally, a Court may dismiss an action under Rule
37(d)(1)(A)(3) based on a party’s failure to serve answers or written responses to interrogatories.
See also 7 Moore’s Federal Practice (3d. ed.) § 37.90 (“Rule 37(d) makes it abundantly clear that
a party properly served has an absolute duty to respond in some fashion, and that the court in which
the action is pending may enforce this obligation by imposing potentially severe sanctions. In
short, the purpose of Rule 37(d) is to authorize courts to directly punish the most blatant forms of
discovery noncompliance, and to deter such conduct in the future”).
“To justify a sanction of dismissal, Rule 37 requires: (1) an order compelling discovery;
(2) a willful violation of that order; and (3) prejudice to the other party.” Sentis Group, Inc., Coral
Group, Inc. v. Shell Oil Co., 559 F.3d 888, 898 (8th Cir.2009). The Court’s discretion to impose
a Rule 37 sanction is “bounded by the requirement of Rule 37(b)(2) that the sanction be ‘just’ and
relate to the claim at issue in the order to provide discovery.” Hairston v. Alert Safety Light
Products, Inc., 307 F.3d 717, 719 (8th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Rule 41(b) dismissal may be
appropriate where Plaintiff has “acted intentionally as opposed to accidentally or
involuntarily.” Doe v. Cassel, 403 F.3d 986, 990 (8th Cir. 2005). Failure to abide by court order
despite “a warning from the district court that [Plaintiff] is skating on the thin ice of dismissal”
can establish willfulness. Rodgers v. Curators of Univ. of Mo., 135 F.3d 1216, 1221 (8th Cir.
1998) (citation omitted). Here, Plaintiff was warned in the Court’s previous discovery order
granting the motion to compel that “[f]ailure to respond may result in dismissal of this action.”
(Doc. 20). Such a warning is sufficient for dismissal on the basis of failure to prosecute or comply
with a Court order. 2 See Rodgers, 135 F .3d at 1221; see also Williams v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n
ND, 2013 WL 4050749, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 9, 2013).
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ motion for sanctions (Doc. 22) is
GRANTED, and Plaintiff Julie Ann Robinson’s complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE to its refiling.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 24th day of May, 2017.
/s/P. K. Holmes, III
P.K. HOLMES, III
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Although Plaintiff did respond to discovery, her responses were deficient and
incomplete, and despite having almost a month to fix the deficiencies or supplement her
incomplete responses, she has failed to do so.
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