Hall et al v. Delaware Department of Correction et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding MOTION for Summary Judgment and, in the Alternative, for Dismissal and/or Severance for Trial (D.I. 31 ). Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 7/1/2015. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
SCHAN HALL and SHANTE WILLIAMS,:
Civil Action No. 13-1459-RGA
DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF
Schan Hall, Seaford, Delaware and Shante Williams, Millsboro, Delaware; Pro Se
Joseph Clement Handlon, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice,
Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant.
rict Judge: ,___
Plaintiffs Schan Hall and Shante Williams, who proceed prose, filed this
complaint pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000 et seq., and the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act, 19 Del. C. § 710 et
seq., alleging employment discrimination by reason of race and sex. 1 (D.I. 1). Hall and
Williams, both of whom are female and black, were employed at the Sussex
Correctional Institution in Georgetown, Delaware. Presently before the Court is
Defendant Delaware Department of Correction's motion for summary judgment and, in
the alternative, for dismissal for failure to prosecute and/or severance for trial. (D.I. 31 ).
The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
I address the issue of dismissal for Plaintiffs' failure to prosecute this case.
Defendant moves for dismissal for failure to prosecute pursuant to Rule 41 (b) on the
grounds that Plaintiffs have taken no action to prosecute this case since their attorney
moved to withdraw from the case in September 2014.
The record reflects that on September 25, 2014, Plaintiffs' attorney moved to
withdraw as their counsel indicating that Hall and Williams had discharged him as
counsel. (D.I. 24, 25). On the same date, the Court extended deadlines for Plaintiffs
and Defendant to disclose expert witnesses. The Court set October 10, 2014 as the
date to hear the motion to withdraw, but later canceled the hearing, and reset it for
October 17, 2014. (See D.I. 27, 28, 29).
Plaintiffs were represented by counsel when they initiated this lawsuit.
Plaintiffs did not appear at the October 17, 2014 hearing. Nor did Plaintiffs
identify expert witnesses by the October 31, 2014 deadline. On February 27, 2015,
Defendant filed the instant motion. (D.I. 31 ). On March 18, 2015, the Court entered an
order for Plaintiffs to file an answering brief to the motion by April 8, 2015. (D.1. 34).
Plaintiffs did not file an opposition to Defendant's motion.
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41 (b), a court may dismiss an action "[f]or failure of
the plaintiff to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules] or any order of court .... "
Although dismissal is an extreme sanction that should only be used in limited
circumstances, dismissal is appropriate if a party fails to prosecute the action. See
Harris v. City of Philadelphia, 47F.3d1311, 1330 (3d Cir. 1995).
The Court considers the following factors to determine whether dismissal is
warranted: (1) The extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the
adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery;
(3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party was willful or in bad
faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of
other sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense. See Pou/is v.
State Farm Fire & Gas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984); see also Emerson v.
Thiel Coll., 296 F.3d 184, 190 (3d Cir. 2002).
The Court must balance the factors and may dismiss the action even if all of
them do not weigh against Plaintiffs. See Emerson, 296 F.3d at 190 (3d Cir. 2002).
Because dismissal for failure to prosecute involves a factual inquiry, dismissal can be
appropriate even if some of the Pou/is factors are not satisfied. See Hicks v. Feeney,
850 F.2d 152, 156 (3d Cir. 1998); Curtis T. Bedwell & Sons, Inc. v. International Fidelity
Ins. Co., 843 F.2d 683, 696 (3d Cir. 1988) (holding that not all Pou/is factors must weigh
in favor of dismissal).
The Court finds that the Pou/is factors warrant dismissal of Plaintiffs' case. First,
as pro se litigants, Plaintiffs are solely responsible for prosecuting their claim. See
Hoxworth v. Blinder, Robinson & Co., 980 F.2d 912, 920 (3d Cir. 1992). Second,
Defendant is prejudiced by Plaintiffs' failure to prosecute. Prejudice occurs when a
plaintiff's failure to prosecute burdens the defendant's ability to prepare for trial. Ware v.
Rodale Press, Inc., 322 F.3d 218, 222-23 (3d Cir. 2003). Here, Plaintiff's failure to
name expert witnesses may impede Defendant's ability to prepare its trial strategy.
As to the third factor, there is a history of dilatoriness given that Plaintiffs failed to
attend the October 17, 2014 hearing, failed to name experts by the Court deadline, and
failed to file an opposition to Defendant's motion by the Court deadline. They have
simply vanished since their counsel withdrew. As to the fourth factor, because Plaintiffs
have taken no action for a lengthy period of time, the Court is unable to discern whether
their failure to prosecute is willful or in bad faith, but notes that Plaintiffs failed to
respond to the motion for summary judgment and, in the alternative, for dismissal for
failure to prosecute and/or severance for trial and they appear to have abandoned their
case. As to the fifth factor, there are no alternative sanctions the Court could effectively
impose. Plaintiffs proceeds prose and, although they paid the filing fee, it is doubtful
that monetary sanctions would be effective. As to the sixth factor, the merits of the
claim, the record reflects that Defendant has provided legitimate, non-discriminatory
reasons for terminating the employment of Hall and Williams. 2
Given Plaintiffs failure to take any action in this case since September 2014, their
failure to name experts, and their failure to respond to Defendant's dispositive motion,
the Court finds that the Pou/is factors weigh in favor of dismissal.
For the above reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's motion to dismiss for
failure to prosecute and dismiss as moot the motion for summary judgment and/or
severance for trial. (D.I. 31 ).
An appropriate Order follows.
Security footage showed that Hall slept while on duty. (See D.I. 33, mf 3-7; D.I. 33-1
at 1-14). Williams, who was a probationary employee, was separated from employment
for: (1) a pending disciplinary action; (2) being AWOL on February 18, 2012; and (3) for
disrespect and insubordination to her supervisor. (D.I. 33,mf 8-14; D.I. 33-1 at 31 ).
Plaintiffs failed to rebut Defendant's proffered reasons for the termination of their
employment. See Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 764 (3d Cir. 1994) (In a Title VII
case, a plaintiff must "point to some evidence, direct or circumstantial, from which a
factfinder could reasonably either (1) disbelieve the employer's articulated legitimate
reasons; or (2) believe that an invidious discriminatory reason was more likely than not
a motivating or determinative cause of the employer's action).
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