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Myers v. Doebler's Pennslyvania Hybrids

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

September 20, 2017

DARRELL L. MYERS and LUKE MYERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
DOEBLER'S PENNSYLVANIA HYBRIDS, Defendant,
v.
LUKE MYERS, Counterclaim Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH M. HOOD SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant/Counterclaimant Doebler's Pennsylvania Hybrid's (Defendant's) Motion for Sanctions [DE 33]. Defendant requests the Court dismiss Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Luke Myers and Darrell Myers' (Plaintiffs') claims with prejudice, grant default judgment against Luke Myers on Defendant's counterclaim, and order Plaintiffs and their counsel to pay Defendant the costs it incurred in litigating the Motion for Sanctions. Plaintiffs responded [DE 37], Defendant replied [DE 38], and the matter is now ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The following series of events highlights the dilatory actions of Plaintiffs throughout this litigation, and provides ample justification for the Court's dismissal of their case. This case arises from a contract for the purchase of seed corn from Defendant. Plaintiffs allege, among other things, that the seed corn was defective. Defendant alleges Plaintiff Luke Myers did not pay for the seed corn as required under the contract at issue. Plaintiffs filed this case on December 23, 2015, in Nicholas Circuit Court, and on January 25, 2016, Defendant removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. On February 5, 2016, Defendant filed its Answer and Counterclaim against Luke Myers [DE 5]. It was at this juncture that Plaintiffs' failures began.

         Luke Myers' deadline to Answer or otherwise respond to the Counterclaim was February 29, 2016. Defendant moved for entry of default on the Counterclaim on March 14, 2016 [DE 10]. The Court permitted late filing of Plaintiffs' “responses” to the Counterclaim [DE 17] and denied Defendant's motion for default. Plaintiffs' counsel, however, failed to properly sign the response on three separate occasions [Des 14, 19, and 20]. After two directives from the Court to file a properly signed response to the Counterclaim [DE 18 and 21], Plaintiffs' counsel finally filed a properly signed response on September 5, 2016, seven months after the Counterclaim was brought against his client.

         By mid-September 2016, Defendant had still had not received initial disclosures from Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' answers to written discovery, due July 5, 2016, were finally served on August 25, 2016. According to Defendant, Plaintiffs' Answers to Interrogatories and Responses to Requests for Production were “extremely and unusually deficient.” The Court ordered Plaintiffs to “fully respond” to written discovery by September 15, 2016. Understandably, Defendant requested additional time for fact discovery, as it was nearly impossible for Defendant to depose Plaintiffs by the September 2, 2016, deadline with so little information about Plaintiffs' claims. In an Order dated September 26, 2016, the Magistrate Judge noted a “troubling (and building) pattern of improper case conduct by Plaintiffs and/or Plaintiffs' counsel.” [DE 25, p. 1]. The Magistrate Judge granted Defendant's request to extend the discovery deadlines, and ordered that Plaintiffs should be deposed by November 23, 2016, and expert identification and reports from Defendant would be due the same day.

         On November 23, 2016, Defendant was forced to file another motion for an extension of its fact and expert discovery deadlines [DE 26] because Plaintiffs still had not provided initial disclosures or fully responded to written discovery; Plaintiffs did not dispute that they had not provided this information [DE 28]. The Court ordered Plaintiffs to serve their initial disclosures on Defendant by December 12, 2016, and to serve complete discovery responses by December 20, 2016 [DE 29]. The Court noted in that Order that

Plaintiffs have not cooperated with discovery in this matter and have ignored the Magistrate Judge's orders dated August 25, 2016 [DE 18] and September 26, 2016 [DE 25]. Should Plaintiffs and/or Plaintiffs' counsel continue their pattern of improper case conduct, refusal to obey Court orders and delay, the Court may dismiss Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2) or 41(b).

[DE p. 1');">29 p. 1-2].

         Plaintiffs filed (rather than served, see Rule 5(d)) their initial disclosures on December 12, 2016. Defendant filed a status report on January 18, 2017 [DE 31], expressing its frustration in trying to schedule the depositions of Plaintiffs, as well as the continued discovery response deficiencies. Although ordered to do so on December 5, 2016 [DE 29], Plaintiffs failed to file a status report on the progress of discovery, or to join in Defendant's report. Accordingly, the Court considers the information in Defendant's Status Report on Discovery [DE 31] uncontroverted.

         By February 2017, Defendant reached the end of its proverbial “rope” and filed the instant Motion for Sanctions [DE 33]. In it, Defendant alleges Plaintiffs' inaction “amount[s] to failure to prosecute” sufficient to warrant dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Defendant argues Plaintiffs' failure to comply with the Court's Orders and Federal Rules 26, 33, 24, 30, and 37 also warrants dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(b) as well as Rule 37(b)(2)(A)(ii)(v)(which provides for sanctions, including dismissal, for a party not complying a discovery rule). At the time of the Motion for Sanctions, Plaintiffs still had not provided complete, substantive answers to Defendant's written discovery; a fact which Plaintiffs do not dispute [DE 37]. Plaintiffs stated in their Response to the Motion for Sanctions that they have “attempted to submit . . . all potentially relevant items of discovery” but could not do so to Defendant's satisfaction. Importantly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, Plaintiffs had to request an extension of time in which to respond to the Motion for Sanctions [see DE 35]. Plaintiffs claim their “insufficiencies” were due, at least in part, to the poor health of counsel's mother, the health problems of Luke Myers, and, later, the poor health of Darrell Myers.

         ANALYSIS

         While the Court is mindful of personal and health-related situations that sometimes temporarily impede the progress of litigation, the fact remains that Plaintiffs instituted this action and it is their responsibility to prosecute their case and participate in discovery in a meaningful manner. This case has been pending for approximately 20 months ...


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