Nelson v. Hartford Life Insurance Company

Filing 69

ORDER by Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu granting in part 57 Motion to Deem Objections Waived. (dmrlc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/29/2014)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 DESSIE R. NELSON, 12 13 No. C-13-04196 CRB (DMR) ORDER GRANTING IN PART THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO DEEM OBJECTIONS WAIVED AND REQUESTING SANCTIONS [DOCKET NO. 57] Plaintiff(s), v. 14 HARTFORD LIFE INSURANCE CO., 15 Defendant(s). ___________________________________/ 16 17 Before the court is Third Party Plaintiff Hartford Life Insurance Co.’s (“Hartford”) motion to 18 deem Third Party Defendant Juliana James’s objections to Hartford’s interrogatories waived. 19 [Docket No. 57.] The court held a hearing on the matter on September 25, 2014. For the following 20 reasons, the court grants Hartford’s motion to deem the objections waived and denies the request for 21 sanctions. 22 23 I. Discussion Hartford served its first set of interrogatories on James on April 1, 2014. Accordingly, her 24 responses and/or objections were due on May 5, 2014. (Hazlehurst Decl., Aug. 13, 2014, ¶ 2 Ex. A.) 25 On May 9, 2014, after the responses were due, James’s counsel requested an extension to June 1, 26 2014 to serve responses. Harford’s counsel agreed to the extension, which the parties confirmed by 27 email. (Hazlehurst Decl. ¶ 3 Ex. B.) James did not serve her interrogatory responses by June 1, 28 2014, nor did her counsel request an additional extension of time. On June 5, 2014, in response to 1 Hartford’s inquiries, James’s counsel stated that Hartford would receive the responses by June 9 or 2 10, 2014. Harford’s counsel responded that all objections to the interrogatories had been waived due 3 to the failure to serve timely responses. (Hazlehurst Decl. ¶ 4 Ex. C.) 4 James finally served her interrogatory responses on Hartford on June 10, 2014. The 5 responses included objections to seven of the fifteen interrogatories even though the responses were 6 late. (Hazlehurst Decl. Ex. D (Interrogatory Responses).) Hartford subsequently asked James to 7 withdraw her objections on the grounds that they had been waived by James’s late responses. James 8 refused. (Hazlehurst Decl. ¶¶ 6, 7.) set of interrogatories waived and requested sanctions. James’s opposition to the motion was due on 11 For the Northern District of California On August 13, 2014, Hartford filed the present motion to deem James’s objections to its first 10 United States District Court 9 August 27, 2014 (see Docket No. 62), but she did not file anything by that date. On September 15, 12 2014, the court received a letter from James’s counsel, stating that Hartford’s motion should be 13 denied because James’s objections “were and are inconsequential” and asserting that each 14 interrogatory was completely and fully answered. [Docket No. 67.] 15 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33 provides that a party must serve responses and any 16 objections to interrogatories within 30 days after being served with the discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 17 33(b)(2). Failure to timely respond to discovery requests generally constitutes a waiver of any 18 objections thereto. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4) (“[a]ny ground [for objecting to an interrogatory] 19 not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the court, for good cause, excuses the failure.”); 20 Richmark Corp. v. Timber Falling Consultants, 959 F.2d 1468, 1473 (“failure to object to discovery 21 requests within the time required constitutes a waiver of any objection.”). Pursuant to Rule 37, a 22 party may move for an order compelling responses to discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B). For 23 purposes of this rule, “an evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a 24 failure to disclose, answer, or respond.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4). If the court grants the motion, it 25 shall require the party whose conduct necessitated the motion to pay the moving party’s reasonable 26 expenses incurred in making the motion, including attorneys’ fees, unless the failure to respond was 27 substantially justified. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(5)(A). 28 2 1 Here, it is undisputed that James served her responses to interrogatories on June 10, 2014, 2 nine days after they were due pursuant to the parties’ agreement. Further, James has not shown 3 good cause for her failure to timely serve responses. Accordingly, all objections to the 4 interrogatories are waived, as James’s counsel conceded at the hearing. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4) 5 (“[a]ny ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the court, for good cause, excuses 6 the failure”). 7 As to the completeness of the responses, James’s counsel represented at the hearing that 8 despite her objections, James’s responses to the interrogatories were complete and included all 9 responsive information known to James as of the date of the responses; in other words, the substantive responses to the interrogatories would be the same in the absence of any objections. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Hartford’s counsel conceded that he believed the responses were complete, notwithstanding the 12 asserted objections. Accordingly, as the responses were complete as of the date they were served, 13 the court concludes that James’s responses were not “evasive or incomplete” pursuant to Rule 14 37(a)(4), and the sanctions provision of Rule 37(a)(5)(A) does not apply. Therefore, Hartford’s 15 request for sanctions is denied. At the hearing, Hartford asked the court to impose sanctions 16 pursuant to its inherent authority, but as Hartford only sought Rule 37 sanctions in its motion, the 17 court declines to consider this request. However, the court expresses concern regarding both the 18 conduct which necessitated this motion, which could have been avoided had counsel agreed to 19 withdraw the untimely objections upon Hartford’s request, as well as the fact that James’s response 20 to the motion was itself untimely. By no later than October 9, 2014, James shall serve supplemental 21 responses to Hartford’s first set of interrogatories that do not include any objections and that reflect 22 any new, responsive information learned through discovery. Going forward, upon learning new 23 information in the course of discovery that is responsive to the interrogatories, James shall 24 supplement her responses within two weeks of learning such information, in compliance with her 25 obligations under Rule 26. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e) (“party who has . . . responded to an 26 interrogatory . . . must supplement or correct its disclosure or response . . . in a timely manner if the 27 party learns that in some material respect the disclosure or response is incomplete or incorrect”). 28 II. Conclusion 3 interrogatories waived is granted. Hartford’s request for sanctions is denied. 5 6 Dated: September 29, 2014 7 NO DONNA M. RYU M. Ryu United StateseMagistrate Judge Donna g 8 RT 10 11 For the Northern District of California Jud ER H 9 United States District Court D RDERE OO IT IS S 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 R NIA UNIT ED S IT IS SO ORDERED. RT U O 4 S DISTRICT TE C TA FO 3 LI 2 For the foregoing reasons, Hartford’s motion to deem James’s objections to its first set of A 1 N D IS T IC T R OF C

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