Larson Manufacturing et al v. Western Showcase Homes et al
ORDER granting 19 Motion to Compel and awarding sanctions in the amount of $2,584.76. Signed by US Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on 5/8/2017. (CG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
LARSON MANUFACTURING COMPANY
OF SOUTH DAKOTA, INC., SUPERIOR
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION TO COMPEL
DOCKET NO. 19
WESTERN SHOWCASE HOMES, INC.,
AMERICAN MODULAR HOUSING
GROUP, LLC, AMERICAN MODULAR
HOUSING GROUP, INC., PAUL THOMAS,
This matter is before the court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28
U.S.C. § 1332, after defendants removed the matter from South Dakota state
court. See Docket No. 1, 1-1. Plaintiffs Larson Manufacturing Company of South
Dakota, Inc. and Superior Homes, LLC (collectively "plaintiffs") have filed a motion
to compel defendants to provide discovery responses. See Docket No. 19.
The facts alleged by plaintiffs are straight forward. Plaintiffs served
discovery requests (a first set of interrogatories and requests for the production of
documents) on defendants December 6, 2016. See Docket No. 21-1. Defendants
failed to respond within the 30-day response period allotted by the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. See Docket No. 21. Plaintiffs' counsel contacted defendants'
counsel to inquire about obtaining defendants' responses on three occasions:
January 19, 2017; February 1, 2017; and February 17, 2017. Id.; Docket No. 212. Despite assurances to the contrary, defendants never responded to the
discovery requests. See Docket No. 21. On February 27, 2017, plaintiffs filed the
instant motion. See Docket Nos. 19-21.
Defendants' response to the motion is two-fold. First, defendants assert
that they have provided plaintiffs with numerous documents already. See Docket
No. 23. Defendants also assure the court that, as of March 20, 2017, they have
"nearly completed" responses to plaintiffs' "formal discovery requests" and "expect
to provide them" to plaintiffs that week. Id.
Plaintiffs' reply brief, filed April 3, 2017, indicate that defendants' counsel
forwarded to plaintiffs' counsel unsigned discovery responses on March 27, 2017.
See Docket No. 24. As of April 3, plaintiffs had received no signed discovery
requests from defendants. Id. As to the documents previously provided by
defendants to plaintiffs, plaintiffs assert these documents relate to only part of
their claims; they have received no requested documents relevant to other claims
plaintiffs have asserted. See Docket No. 26. Plaintiffs request an order from the
court requiring defendants to provide signed discovery responses, requested
documents, and awarding the sum of $2,584.76 in reasonable attorneys fees
incurred in bringing the motion to compel.
Interrogatories to parties in a lawsuit must be answered within 30 days after
they are served. See FED. R. CIV. P. 33(b)(2). The parties may stipulate to a longer
or shorter response time. Id. Answers to interrogatories must be full and
complete unless objected to with specificity. Id. at (b)(3) & (4). The party or its
agent who makes the answers must sign the answers under oath. Id.
Similar rules apply to requests for the production of documents. Responses
to document requests must be made within 30 days of the service of the request
unless the parties stipulate to a shorter or longer response time. See FED. R. CIV.
P. 34(b)(2). The responding party must state whether copies will be provided or
inspection allowed. Id. In the alternative, if an objection to producing the
documents is made, the objection must be lodged with specificity. Id.
Although a party need not reproduce documents previously produced, the
party must indicate with specificity the documents which are responsive to the
request. So if, for example, documents BATES stamped 1-57 are responsive to
document request number 1 and were previously provided to the requesting party
(for example in the responding parties' initial disclosures), the written response to
document request number 1 would be: "documents responsive to this request
were previously provided and are BATES stamped 1-57." In actuality, the
responding party is objecting to the discovery request on the grounds of
duplication, but the requirement for stating the objection with specificity requires
explaining how the request is duplicitous. Furthermore, if the document request
was broader than the documents BATES stamped 1-57, the responding party
would—of course—have an obligation to produce the additional documents.
Rule 37 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides the method for enforcing the
other discovery rules. If a responding party fails to respond to a discovery request,
or responds evasively or incompletely, the requesting party may file a motion to
compel after first attempting to resolve the matter in good faith with the other
party. See FED. R. CIV. P. 37(a)(1), (a)(3)(B), and (a)(4). The rule provides that the
court "must" impose sanctions in the form of reasonable expenses incurred in
making the motion if the responding party provides the discovery responses after
the filing of the motion to compel. See FED. R. CIV. P. 37(a)(5)(A). Exceptions to
this mandatory requirement for imposing sanctions are (1) if the movant failed to
attempt a good faith settlement of the issue before filing the motion, (2) the
responding party's failure to respond was "substantially justified," or (3) other
circumstances make an award of sanctions unjust. Id.
The court finds plaintiffs' motion well-founded. Defendants did not lodge
any objections with specificity to plaintiffs' discovery requests. In addition,
defendants did not provide their responses to plaintiffs' discovery requests until
after the motion to compel was filed. Finally, although plaintiffs' reply has been
pending for over a month, defendants have not asserted any of the three possible
grounds that might defeat an award of sanctions. Neither have defendants
objected to the amount of sanctions requested. The court finds that plaintiffs also
satisfied their obligation to attempt in good faith to settle the matter before filing
Based on the foregoing, it is hereby
ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion to compel [Docket No. 19] is granted. If
defendants have not done so already, defendants shall immediately provide to
plaintiffs discovery responses in compliance with Rules 33 and 34 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. It is further
ORDERED that defendants shall pay to plaintiffs on or before May 22, 2017,
the sum of $2,584.76 as reasonable attorney's fees in connection with bringing the
DATED May 8, 2017.
BY THE COURT:
VERONICA L. DUFFY
United States Magistrate Judge
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