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Peterson v. Hantman

March 21, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge


This case has been referred to me by Judge Roberts for resolution of all discovery disputes pursuant to LCvR 72.2(a). Ready for resolution is Plaintiff's Motion for Discovery Sanctions ("Plains. Mot."). For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion will be denied.


Frank Peterson ("Peterson" or "plaintiff"), an African-American, claims that the Architect of the Capitol ("AOC" or "defendant") subjected him to a hostile work environment and denied him a promotion because of his race and in retaliation for complaining of the discrimination. Complaint at 1. Plaintiff sued the AOC under Title IV of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C.A. § 1311m 1317(a(1) ("CAA").*fn1 Id. Defendant claims that Peterson was not qualified for the promotion he sought and that he was incapable of assuming additional duties without putting himself and others at risk of injury. Defendant's Motion for Independent Examinations, for an Extension of Time for Discovery and for the Disclosure of Expert Testimony, and Memorandum in Support Thereof at 2-3.


I. Plaintiff's Motion for Discovery Sanctions

Plaintiff contends that defendant, through its refusal to produce documents and respond to interrogatories, has delayed the progress of this case for over a year and a half. Plains. Mot. at 1. Plaintiff argues that defendant should be sanctioned for its behavior in two ways: 1) defendant should pay the expenses incurred by plaintiff as a result of having to file two motions to compel and 2) at trial, defendant should be precluded from using any undisclosed evidence relating to its defense that plaintiff is "unsafe" in the workplace. Id.

Plaintiff argues generally that defendant failed to respond in a timely and adequate fashion to plaintiff's discovery requests. Plaintiff propounded his first set of discovery requests on October 16, 2003. According to plaintiff, despite repeated requests, defendant did not respond until January 12, 2004, "nearly two months out of time." Id. at 2. Plaintiff further claims that defendant's January 12, 2004 response did not include the requested documents and that the answers to the interrogatories were inadequate. Id. Plaintiff also argues that defendant was late in responding to his second set of discovery requests and that once again, the responses were inadequate. Id.

Plaintiff also makes two specific allegations. First, plaintiff argues that, in violation of the jointly filed stipulation on discovery issues, defendant failed to turn over the requested accident reports. Id. at 3. Plaintiff contends that defendant promised to contact plaintiff by July 13, 2004 but that on July 13, defense counsel indicated he needed until July 19, and that as of the date of plaintiff's motion for discovery sanctions, plaintiff's counsel had not yet received any information as to these reports. Id. at 4. Second, plaintiff claims that defendant has not "cooperated" in scheduling three outstanding depositions, including that of Alan Harvey. Id. at 4. Finally, plaintiff's counsel indicates that she told defense counsel that, if the outstanding discovery obligations were not fulfilled by July 30, 2004, she would file a motion for sanctions. Id. Plaintiff's counsel then acknowledges that she did receive a letter from defense counsel on July 29, 2004, but the reasons offered by defense counsel for the delay in responding to plaintiff's discovery requests were inexcusable. Id. at 4-5.

Defendant argues that plaintiff's motion for discovery sanctions lacks a good faith basis and is rooted primarily in plaintiff's failure to discover any information that supports his case. Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions ("Defs. Opp.") at 2-3. Defendant also argues that the parties have jointly agreed to extensions of the discovery deadlines in this case and that the court granted defendant's request for an extension of time until August 2, 2004 to complete discovery. Id. at 3.

Defendant also argues that, while there may have been disputes over discovery, these disputes were not baseless. Id. Specifically, defendant notes that when plaintiff requested information about the "Air Conditioning Division," that information was turned over even though plaintiff works in the "Maintenance Division" but used to work in the "Air Conditioning Division." Id. Thus, defendant claims that it complied with the request and that it was plaintiff's failure to appropriately word the discovery request that led to the release of information that plaintiff ultimately did not want. Id. at 4.

Addressing the issue of the requested accident reports, defendant claims that they were provided on August 2, 2004. Id. Defendant also argues that the reports plaintiff originally requested were those relating to an internal working group within the Architect of the Capitol and not the routine accident reports made by employees during the normal course of business. Id. Thus, defendant argues that plaintiff cannot now complain that defendant should be sanctioned for its failure to produce materials that were not originally requested. Id.

As to the scheduling of the deposition of Alan Harvey, defendant argues that plaintiff failed to adequately explain to the court that the reason the deposition had to be rescheduled was because the witness was in the hospital. Id. at 5.

In terms of failing to provide plaintiff with information relating to defendant's "unsafe" defense, defendant argues that this is simply not true. Id. According to defendant, defendant explained to plaintiff that several other employees expressed concerns about plaintiff's on-thejob safety. Id. Defendant also claims that plaintiff had every opportunity to question Robert Davis, ...

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