Aaron, MacGregor & Associates, LLC et al v. Zhejiang Jinfei Kaida Wheels Co., Ltd. et al
OPINION AND ORDER: DENYING 60 MOTION for Sanctions by Defendants Ge Bingzao, Future Industrial & Trading, Inc., Zhejiang Jinfei Kaida Wheels Co., Ltd. The Court ORDERS all parties to serve an additional round of supplemental discovery responses b y November 6, 2017. The producing party should also provide written notice to the requesting party by the same date should no additional responsive information be possessed. Supplementation under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e) shall then continue every six weeks until trial. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael G Gotsch, Sr on 10/30/2017. (lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
AARON, MACGREGOR & ASSOCIATES,
LLC, et al.,
ZHEIJIANG JINFEI KAIDA WHEELS
CO., LTD., et al.,
CAUSE NO. 3:15-CV-254-MGG
OPINION AND ORDER
On June 7, 2017, Defendants, Zhejiang Jinfei Kaida Wheels Co., Ltd. (“Jinfei”), Future
Industrial & Trading, Inc., and Bingzao Ge (collectively “Defendants”), filed their Motion for
Rule 11, 28 U.S.C. § 1927, and Inherent Authority Sanctions Against Plaintiffs and Their
Counsel [DE 60]. On June 21, 2017, Plaintiffs, Aaron, MacGregor & Associates, LLC (“AMA”)
and Future International, LLC, and Third-Party Defendant Aaron Zou (collectively “Plaintiffs”),
filed their brief in opposition to Defendants’ motion for sanctions. Defendants’ motion became
ripe on June 28, 2017, when they filed their reply brief. The undersigned retains jurisdiction
over this case based on the parties’ consent and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons discussed
below, the Court issues the following Opinion and Order denying without prejudice Defendants’
motion for sanctions.
AMA is a business that buys and sells vehicle parts for resale. While visiting China,
AMA’s president and founder, Aaron Zou, was approached by Bingzao Ge, the chairman of
Jinfei, a Chinese company that manufactures vehicle parts. On behalf of their respective
companies, Zou and Ge reached a deal to form Future International, LLC (“Future
International”). Through Future International, AMA was expected to assist Jinfei with the
expansion of its market in the United States beginning with the recreational vehicle market
around Elkhart, Indiana. The parties entered three contracts to govern the funding, development,
and management of Future International.
The parties’ Investment Contract and Consultation Contract were executed on February
26, 2012. Despite agreeing that AMA would fund about 10% of the company while Jinfei would
fund 90% of the company, neither company had invested in Future International as of October
2012. AMA had been waiting to invest until Jinfei received approval from the Chinese
government. Jinfei, however, received the required approval in April 2012 without disclosing it
to AMA. In October 2012, the parties executed a new contract that provided for AMA’s 10%
investment in Future International and Jinfei’s payment of consulting fees to AMA back to
February 2012. On January 31, 2013, Jinfei and Ge registered Future Industrial & Trading, Inc.
(“FIT”) with the Indiana Secretary of State without informing AMA. Jinfei never invested any
funds into Future International and never paid consulting fees to AMA.
On May 13, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in St. Joseph County Superior Court
alleging that FIT retained profits generated by customer contacts they established through their
connection to AMA and that the FIT name, under which it continues to operate, is confusingly
similar to the name Future International. Plaintiffs’ complaint included claims for breach of the
three contracts, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, unfair competition, and trademark
infringement. Defendants removed the case to this Court alleging original jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1331 arising from Plaintiffs’ Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.) claim for federal
Before Defendants responded to Plaintiffs’ original complaint, Plaintiffs filed their
amended complaint on August 12, 2015. In response, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim challenging all seven causes of action as raised by Future International
and the unjust enrichment and trademark infringement claims raised by AMA as well. On April
11, 2016, this Court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss.1 [DE 28].
The Court then issued its Rule 16(b) Preliminary Pretrial Scheduling Order on July 7,
2016, setting November 28, 2017, as the deadline for the close of all discovery on Plaintiffs’
remaining claims. [DE 47]. In September 2016, FIT and Ge served their first sets of discovery
requests, including requests for production, requests for admission, and special interrogatories,
on Plaintiffs. On November 2, 2016, AMA served responses to FIT and Ge’s interrogatories
[DE 61-3] and Future International responded to Ge’s request for production of documents [DE
61-4]. On November 9, 2016, Future International served responses to FIT’s requests for
admission [DE 61-6].
Through their interrogatories, FIT and Ge sought “foundational information” from AMA
regarding the facts supporting Plaintiffs’ claims. AMA objected to most of the requests as
“overly burdensome insofar as [they seek] ‘all facts,’ [and] to the extent [they seek] the mental
impressions of counsel in violation of the work product doctrine.” [DE 61-3 at 3–4].
In its opinion and order, the Court noted Plaintiffs’ concession that only AMA could bring a breach of the
October 2012 contract claim and an unjust enrichment claim. [DE 28 at 7]. Accordingly, the Court dismissed those
two claims as to Future International only. [Id. at 11]. Plaintiffs’ remaining claims include: Breach of the
Investment Contract by Plaintiffs against Jinfei only (Count I); Breach of the Consultation Contract by Plaintiffs
against Jinfei only (Count II); Breach of October 2012 Contract by AMA only against Jinfei only (Count III);
Breach of Fiduciary Duty by Plaintiffs against Jinfei only (Count IV); Unjust Enrichment by AMA only against
Jinfei only (Count V); Unfair Competition by Plaintiffs against all three Defendants (Count VI); and Trademark
Infringement by Plaintiffs against all three Defendants (Count VII).
Nevertheless, AMA responded by repeating facts incorporated into the amended complaint while
noting that “discovery is ongoing, and [reserving] the right to supplement its answer.” [Id.].
Through his requests for production of documents, Ge similarly sought documents
supporting Future International’s contentions. Future International objected to each request as
overly burdensome for seeking “all” documents and the mental impressions of counsel using the
same language AMA used when objecting to FIT and Ge’s interrogatories. [DE 61-4 at 3–4].
Future International then responded by referring to “Plaintiffs Bates 295–298,” which are the
incorporation documents for FIT dated October 20, 2014, on file with the Indiana Secretary of
State. [Id.; see also DE 61-5].
Through its requests for admission, FIT asked for admissions related to facts it deemed
foundational to Plaintiffs’ claims, including whether (1) Future International sold any goods or
products, provided any services, or advertised goods or services using its mark; (2) Future
International has any evidence of FIT using Future International’s mark or a confusingly similar
mark or any evidence of confusion; (3) Jinfei owned 100% of Future International; and (4)
Future International ever used its own mark, obtained a tax ID, engaged in business operations,
or opened a business bank account. Future International admitted only that it “has not had a
business bank account.” [DE 61-6 at 5]. Future International denied the rest of FIT’s requests
with objections to most alleging that FIT was seeking “the mental impressions of counsel in
violation of the work product doctrine.” [Id. at 3–5]. To some requests, Future International also
noted that it was “not able to respond until discovery is completed.” [Id.].
Finding Plaintiffs’ responses deficient, Defendants’ counsel wrote a letter to Plaintiffs’
counsel on March 8, 2017, seeking supplementation. [DE 61-7]. In a written response dated
April 28, 2017, Plaintiffs highlighted ongoing discovery shortcomings by Defendants and
indicated that their supplementation had been hindered by Defendants’ withholding of relevant
discovery responses. [DE 61-8 at 3]. Specifically, Plaintiffs’ counsel stated:
Plaintiffs will supplement their responses after Defendants confirm the scope of
their supplementation and produce the entire supplementation. Plaintiffs will
require thirty (30) days to review the information after Defendants submit their
final supplementation, and Plaintiffs will then supplement accordingly.
[Id.]. On May 1, 2017, Defendants’ counsel sent another letter to Plaintiffs’ counsel reiterating
concerns over Plaintiffs’ discovery responses, alerting Plaintiffs to the possibility of a Rule 37
motion to compel, and arguing that Plaintiffs’ insufficient discovery responses proved a violation
of the Rule 11(b) requirement of a reasonable investigation of claims before they are filed. [DE
On May 11, 2017, Defendants’ counsel then served a copy of the instant motion for
sanctions and its accompanying memorandum in support on Plaintiffs’ counsel. [DE 61-10, 6111]. Plaintiffs did not withdraw their claims or otherwise correct them. Therefore, Defendants
filed the instant motion on June 7, 2017, having waiting more than the 21 days required by Fed.
R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2). 2 Through their motion, Defendants ask the Court to use its authority under
Rule 11(c), 28 U.S.C. § 1927, and its own inherent power to sanction Plaintiffs by (1) dismissing
all of the claims in their amended complaint with prejudice and (2) ordering Plaintiffs and their
counsel to pay Defendants’ reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in litigation of this action
after removal. In their defense, Plaintiffs argue that (1) Defendants are raising discovery
disputes that do not rise to the level of Rule 11 litigation abuses; (2) the Court’s order denying
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2) states:
A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the
specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b). The motion must be served under Rule 5, but
it must not be filed or be presented to the court if the challenged paper, claim, defense,
contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service or
within another time the court sets.
Defendants’ motion to dismiss already establishes the sufficiency of the amended complaint; and
(3) the amended complaint and initial disclosures provide competent evidentiary support for
Plaintiffs’ claims for which Rule 11(b) requires nothing more.
Rule 11 Sanctions
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) sets the standard for integrity in each attorney’s or unrepresented
party’s representations to the court. Specifically, Rule 11(b)(3) requires attorneys and
unrepresented parties to certify
to the best of that person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an
inquiry reasonable under the circumstances [that] the factual contentions have
evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary
support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.
As a result, “[r]epresentations in a filing in a federal district court that are not grounded in an
‘inquiry reasonable under the circumstances’ or that are unlikely to ‘have evidentiary support
after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery violate Rules 11(b) and
11(b)(3).” City of Livonia Emps.’ Ret. Sys. & Local 295/Local 851 v. Boeing Co., 711 F.3d 754,
762 (7th Cir. 2013)). Indeed, “an attorney violates Rule 11 in maintaining a claim that is
unwarranted by existing law or has no reasonable basis in fact.” Fabriko Acquisition Corp. v.
Prokos, 536 F.3d 605, 610 (7th Cir. 2008) As a result, Rule 11 requires a plaintiff to “engage in
a reasonable, meaningful investigation . . . prior to filing its complaint.” Smart Options, LLC v.
Jump Rope, Inc., No. 12 C 2498, 2013 WL 500861, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 11, 2013). “[T]he court
may impose an appropriate sanction on any attorney, law firm, or party that violate[s] [Rule
11(b)] or is responsible for the violation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1); see, e.g., United Stars Indus.,
Inc. v. Plastech Engineered Prod., Inc., 525 F.3d 605, 610 (7th Cir. 2008) (sanctioning a law
firm that “advanced a position that never had any evidentiary support, and thus necessarily could
not have been based on a reasonable investigation preceding the counterclaim.”);
By filing a Rule 11 motion for sanctions based on non-frivolous allegations, a party
successfully makes a prima facie showing of sanctionable conduct. Vandeventer v. Wabash
Nat’l Corp., 893 F. Supp. 827, 840 (N.D. Ind. 1995) (citing Shrock v. Altru Nurses Registry, 810
F.2d 658 (7th Cir. 1987). Once the prima facie showing is made, “the burden of proof shifts to
the non-movant to show it made a reasonable pre-suit inquiry into its claim.” Digeo, Inc. v.
Audible, Inc., 505 F3d 1362, 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Thus, the burden of reasonable
investigations falls on the proponent of a proposition, not the opponent. Vandeventer, 893 F.
Supp. at 840. Here, the burden shifts to Plaintiffs to show that they reasonably investigated their
claims against Defendants before filing their complaint now that Defendants have filed the
instant motion for sanctions.
Assessing the reasonableness of a party’s pre-filing inquiry requires the court to ascertain
whether “the party or his counsel [objectively] should have known that his position is
groundless.” Cuna Mut. Ins. Soc’y v. Office & Prof’l Emps. Int’l Union, Local 39, 443 F.3d 556,
560 (7th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). Plaintiffs are not required to have sufficient information
to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or
at trial to comply with Rule 11. Vista Mfg., Inc. v. Trac-4, Inc., 131 F.R.D. 134, 138 (N.D. Ind.
1990) (citation omitted). A plaintiff’s pre-filing inquiry must only be reasonable under the
circumstances, which vary from case to case. Id. Therefore, the court must consider all the
circumstances of a case before awarding Rule 11 sanctions. Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp.,
496 U.S. 384, 401 (1990). Moreover, Rule 11 sanctions are a rarity. District judges must
“reflect seriously, and consider fully, before imposing (or denying) sanctions.”
II Ltd. v. English, 217 Fed. App’x 527, 529 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Mars Steel Corp. v. Cont’l
Bank N.A., 880 F.2d 928, 936 (7th Cir. 1989)).
Effect of This Court’s Denial of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss on
Before conducting any analysis of the reasonableness of Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint inquiry,
the Court must consider the effect of this Court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss
Plaintiffs’ claims. In its order, this Court held that (1) Future International had authority to assert
claims against Defendants, (2) Future International pleaded sufficient factual allegations to state
a claim for breach of the Investment Contract and Consultation Contract under a third party
beneficiary theory, and (3) AMA and Future International pleaded facts sufficient to satisfy the
relevant plausibility standard 3 for their unfair competition and trademark infringement claims,
both of which turn on the likelihood of customer confusion. [DE 28]. Yet in essence,
Defendants’ instant motion for sanctions contends that Plaintiffs’ amended complaint is frivolous
and therefore subject to dismissal with prejudice.
Neither party cites authority to suggest that Rule 11 sanctions are avoided in situations
where the court holds that a plaintiff’s pleadings are sufficient under the Rule 12(b)(6)
plausibility standard set forth in Iqbal and Twombly. However, the Court’s order demonstrates
that Plaintiffs’ amended complaint pleaded facts in support of their claims. And appropriate
deference should be given to a district court’s decision on a motion to dismiss. Cooney v.
Casady, 735 F.3d 514, 522 (7th Cir. 2013). Moreover, a plaintiff “should not be faulted for
proceeding with her case once she was given the chance to do so with the denial of the motion to
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009); accord Bell v. Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Deference to this Court denial of Defendants’ motion to dismiss could result in an
inference that Plaintiffs’ factual allegations in their amended complaint show sufficient precomplaint investigation into those facts. Any such inference, however, would not be
determinative in a Rule 11 sanctions analysis, which requires consideration of the totality of the
circumstances when evaluating whether a plaintiff engaged in reasonable inquiry into the facts
before filing claims. See Cooter & Gell, 496 U.S. at 401; Smart Options, LLC, 2013 WL
500861, at *3. Moreover, the Iqbal and Twombly plausibility standard assumes the veracity of a
plaintiff’s factual allegations in a complaint without requiring any verification that Plaintiff can
support those same allegations.
Therefore, this Court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss is not dispositive to
whether Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint investigation was reasonable. Accordingly, the Court now
turns to the parties’ arguments regarding the reasonableness of Plaintiff’s pre-complaint inquiry.
Reasonableness of Plaintiffs’ Pre-Complaint Inquiry into Facts in
Support of Their Legal Claims
In briefing Defendants’ motion for sanctions, neither party has met their burden
convincingly. Both Plaintiffs and Defendants ask the Court to rule in their favor based on
dueling inferences supported by limited underlying evidence and conclusory statements about
Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint investigation.
Defendants’ Prima Facie Showing of Sanctionable Conduct
Defendants’ only burden here is to make a prima facie showing of Rule 11 sanctionable
conduct by filing a motion for sanctions based on non-frivolous allegations. See Vandeventer,
893 F. Supp. at 840. Defendants allege sanctionable misconduct against Plaintiffs citing only to
Plaintiffs’ discovery responses. Defendants suggest that their discovery requests sought
“foundational information” from Plaintiffs that they should have had in hand before filing their
complaint. As such, Defendants view Plaintiffs’ objections to the discovery requests and their
professed inability to respond until after receiving discovery responses from Defendants as an
admission that Plaintiffs did not undertake a reasonable pre-complaint investigation in violation
of Rule 11(b). With nothing more, however, Defendants’ allegations seem frivolous.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) only requires that pleadings include “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Litigation necessarily involves
discovery, as governed by Rule 26 through 37, largely because plaintiffs cannot be expected to
have access to or an ability to find all the relevant facts before filing a complaint. Litigants
commonly supplement their discovery responses after reviewing discovery received from an
opposing party. Therefore, Defendants’ conclusion that Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint investigation
was unreasonable based solely on Plaintiffs’ common discovery response is an unjustified logical
leap. Such a leap also implies that Defendants did not consider the breadth of facts Plaintiffs did
actually incorporate into their amended complaint.
In a footnote, Defendants also assert with confidence, but no factual or legal support, that
their discovery responses to Plaintiffs have established that the marks at issue in this case have
not been used such that Plaintiffs’ trademark infringement and unfair competition claims are now
“patently frivolous.” [DE 63 at 9 n.4]. Defendants then seem to want the Court to extrapolate
from their unsupported conclusion on the merits of this case that Plaintiffs’ refusal to dismiss
those claims is evidence of Rule 11 sanctionable conduct. Similarly, Defendants argue that
Plaintiffs’ production of FIT’s incorporation documents does not establish use of the mark in
commerce making Plaintiffs’ refusal to dismiss the infringement and unfair competition claims
sanctionable conduct showing lack of reasonable pre-complaint inquiry.
Once again, this is a quite a stretch to make at this early stage of litigation before
discovery has closed, before any motions for summary judgment have been filed or considered,
and before trial. Even assuming for the sake of argument that Defendants’ confidence is
justified, Defendants have more persuasively suggested that Plaintiffs’ claims may lack
substantive merit than they have shown that Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint inquiry into their claims
was unreasonable under Rule 11 standards. As a result, the Court finds Defendants’ allegations
of Rule 11 sanctionable misconduct to be unreasonable, and therefore, frivolous making them
insufficient to establish a prima facie case of sanctionable conduct.
Plaintiffs’ Evidence of Reasonable Pre-Complaint Inquiry
Even if the Court could find that Defendants’ met their burden to make a prima facie case
of sanctionable conduct in their instant motion, Plaintiffs have not satisfied their burden to show
that they made a reasonable pre-complaint inquiry into its claim. See Digeo, Inc., 505 F.3d at
1368. Defendants correctly note that Plaintiffs responded to Defendants’ instant motion with no
facts about the process they used to investigate their claims before filing the complaint. Instead,
Plaintiffs ask the Court to infer a reasonable inquiry from the detailed facts incorporated into
their amended complaint, the three contracts attached to their amended complaint, and the
content of their Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures, which disclosed the identity of ten witnesses on
specified subject matters, quantified damages for each claim, and delivered relevant business
records, emails, transaction documents and correspondence.
Yet the key to the Rule 11(b) analysis here is whether Plaintiffs engaged in a reasonable
pre-filing inquiry. See City of Livonia Emps.’ Ret. Sys. & Local 295/Local 851, 711 F.3d at 762.
Therefore, any investigation after Plaintiffs filed their complaint is irrelevant to the analysis.
To infer reasonable inquiry as Plaintiffs ask would be just as intellectually dishonest as it
would have been for the Court to infer the lack of reasonable inquiry Defendants have argued
exists. Pleadings on their own say nothing about a party’s pre-filing investigation. Initial
disclosures say even less because nothing guarantees that the initial disclosures only include
evidence gathered before the filing of the complaint. Indeed, nothing prevents parties from
continuing to investigate their claims after filing their complaint but before the formal start of
discovery when initial disclosures are typically served. Moreover, Plaintiffs did not serve their
initial disclosures on Defendants in this case until August 15, 2016, more than two years after the
action was initiated in state court and more than one year after Plaintiffs filed their amended
complaint in this Court. With nothing in the record describing Plaintiffs’ pre-filing investigation,
the Court simply cannot infer anything from the pleadings or initial disclosures.
Therefore, neither Defendants nor Plaintiffs have met their burdens. The record includes
no facts related to Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint investigation into their claims. The parties’ dueling
inferences both fail to present even a logical bridge to any conclusion about Plaintiffs’
reasonable inquiry or lack thereof.
Apparent Ongoing Discovery Matters
The parties’ briefs, however, do suggest that discovery disputes may indeed exist.
Without more thorough arguments, the Court refuses to issue any order regarding the disputes.
Nevertheless, the Court reminds the parties of their obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. The Rules require full, complete, and timely responses to discovery requests. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b), 34(2), 36(3)–(6). Nothing in the Rules allows a party to withhold
responsive discovery until the time of its choice. Withholding responsive information negates
the open nature of litigation envisioned by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, slows the flow
of litigation, and fosters more motion practice, which increases costs to the parties themselves
and to this Court. In other words, withholding responsive information violates the call of Fed. R.
Civ. P. 1 to construe, administer, and employ the Rules “to secure the just, speedy, and
inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”
Yet not all responsive information surfaces at the exact time a discovery request is
served. Indeed, a party cannot produce information they do not possess. Therefore, the Rules
provide for supplementation of discovery responses as they arise in the normal course of
discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e). In fact, this Court has explicitly ordered
“[s]upplementation under Rule 26(e) due every six weeks until trial.” [DE 47 at 2].
With these guiding principles in mind, the parties are advised that withholding responsive
information will not be tolerated and timely supplementation must continue throughout litigation.
To ensure that both parties’ discovery responses are as complete as possible at this time, the
Court ORDERS all parties to serve an additional round of supplemental discovery responses by
November 6, 2017. The producing party should also provide written notice to the request party
by the same date should no additional responsive information be possessed. Supplementation
under Rule 26(e) shall then continue every six weeks until trial.
Other Grounds for Sanctions
“Any attorney . . . who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and
vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and
attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.” 28 U.S.C. § 1927. “Section 1927
applies to cases marked by a litigant’s bad faith, which is shown when ‘counsel acted recklessly,
counsel raised baseless claims despite notice of the frivolous nature of these claims, or counsel
otherwise showed indifference to statutes, rules, or court orders.’” Prenda Law, Inc. v. Godfread,
No. 13-CV-4341, 2014 WL 2699817, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 12, 2014) (quoting Grochocinski v.
Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 799 (7th Cir. 2013) (citations and internal
quotations omitted)). “If a lawyer pursues a path that a reasonably careful attorney would have
known, after appropriate inquiry, to be unsound, the conduct is objectively unreasonable and
vexatious.” Riddle & Assocs. P.C. v. Kelly, 414 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Kapco
Mfg. Co., Inc. v. C & O Enters., Inc., 886 F.2d 1485, 1491 (7th Cir. 1989)). Under Section
1927’s objective standard, reckless indifference to the law will support sanctions. Dal Pozzo v.
Basic Mach. Co., 463 F.3d 609, 614 (7th Cir. 2006). Courts may also invoke their inherent
authority and sanction parties that “willfully abuse the judicial process or otherwise conduct
litigation in bad faith.” Prenda Law, 2014 WL 2699817, at *2 (quoting Tucker v. Williams, 682
F.3d 654, 662 (7th Cir. 2012)).
For the same reasons discussed above, Defendants have not established that Plaintiffs
were even recklessly indifferent to the law in their pre-complaint investigation of their claims.
The record includes nothing to persuade the Court that Plaintiffs have willfully abused the
judicial process or have exhibited any bad faith in the litigation of this case. Therefore, neither
Section 1927 nor the Court’s inherent authority provide the grounds to sanction Plaintiffs at this
time on this matter.
As discussed above, both Defendants and Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden
under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) for sanctions related to Plaintiffs’ pre-complaint investigation into its
complaints. Moreover, Defendants have not established the objective bad faith necessary to
justify sanctions under 28 U.S.C. § 1927. Furthermore, Defendants have not established any
willful abuse of the judicial process or bad faith litigation by Plaintiffs to warrant sanctions by
invocation of this Court’s inherent authority. Therefore, the Court DENIES Defendants’
motion. [DE 60]. To minimize the effects of the parties’ apparent discovery disputes, the Court
also ORDERS all parties to serve an additional round of supplemental discovery responses by
November 6, 2017. The producing party should also provide written notice to the requesting
party by the same date should no additional responsive information be possessed.
Supplementation under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e) shall then continue every six weeks until trial.
Dated this 30th day of October 2017.
s/Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.
Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.
United States Magistrate Judge
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