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CALDWELL v. CENTER FOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH AND POLICY STUDIES

June 2, 2005.

LAWRENCE CALDWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTER FOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH AND POLICY STUDIES, INC. et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN FACCIOLA, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case was referred to me for all discovery disputes. Currently pending and ready for resolution is Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 for Failure to Comply with the Court's Orders. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

INTRODUCTION

  Plaintiff, Lawrence Caldwell, ("plaintiff") was previously confined as a prisoner at the Central Detention Facility in the District of Columbia. According to plaintiff, while he was an inmate, he required the medical services of The Center for Correctional Health and Policy Studies, Inc., and others ("CCHPS" or "defendants"). The basis of plaintiff's civil suit against defendants is that the dental, eye, skin cancer, and transport services provided by defendants were not adequate and that he also suffered retaliation as a result of his complaining about the quality of the care he received. Amended Complaint for Monetary Damages, Declaratory Relief, and a Trial by Judge.

  DISCUSSION

  I. The Course of Discovery

  On March 15, 2004, plaintiff served defendants with interrogatories, requests for admission, and document requests. Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 for Failure to Comply with the Court's Orders ("Plains. Mem."), Wallach Declaration at 1. On June 3, 2004, at a status hearing held before Judge Kessler, discovery was stayed and the case was referred for mediation. Plains. Mem., Exhibit 1. By order of the same date, the court indicated that the parties were still obliged to respond to any outstanding discovery requests, "including Defendants' identification of expert witnesses due on June 8, 2004," but that any additional discovery was stayed. Id. On July 30, 2004, defendants responded to plaintiff's requests for admission. Plains. Mem., Wallach Declaration at 2.

  On August 17, 2004, another status hearing was held before Judge Kessler. By minute entry of the same date, the court set a discovery deadline of December 1, 2004, thus lifting the previously imposed stay. Id. at 3. On October 28, 2004, defendants responded to the majority of plaintiff's document requests and on December 29, 2004, defendants supplemented that response. Id.

  On January 3, 2005, I had a telephone conference call with counsel. Following the call, I ordered, inter alia, defendants to reply to any outstanding interrogatories by January 17, 2005, and indicated that plaintiff could, by the same date, move to compel if the answers were not received. Plains. Mem., Exhibit 3. I also indicated that the parties would have until January 17, 2005 to schedule any remaining depositions and that plaintiff would have 7 hours to depose Dr. Hammond and the 30(b)(6) witness and 3.5 hours for each remaining witness. Id. On February 3, 2005, plaintiff filed the instant motion.

  II. Plaintiff's Motion

  Plaintiff claims that the defendants have "willfully violated two of the Court's orders and ignored discovery obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to respond to interrogatories and appear for deposition" and thus has moved for sanctions under Rule 37(b)(2) and 37(d). Plains. Mot. at 1. First, plaintiff claims that defendants violated the court's orders of June 3, 2004 and January 3, 2005 by failing to respond to plaintiff's interrogatories. Plains. Mem. at 1. Second, plaintiff claims that defendants violated the court's order of January 3, 2005 by failing to schedule all remaining depositions by January 17, 2005. Id. Plaintiff therefore asks the court to do the following: 1) enter a default judgment against defendants, 2) hold defendants in contempt and levy a monetary sanction against them, and 3) award plaintiff its expenses and associated attorneys fees. Plains. Mem. at 2.

  III. Legal Standard

  As I noted most recently in the case of Peterson v. Hantman, 227 F.R.D. 13 (D.D.C. 2005):
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, a court may sanction a party that fails to comply with a discovery order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2). The Federal Rules authorize a wide array of sanctions, including staying the proceedings pending compliance with a court order, taking certain facts as established, prohibiting a party from introducing certain matters into evidence, finding a party in contempt of court, and dismissing the action or any part thereof. See id. The court also has the authority to award reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure to obey a court order "unless the court finds that the failure was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust." Id.
* * *
District courts are entrusted with broad discretion regarding whether to impose sanctions under Rule 37, and the nature of the sanctions to be imposed. Bonds v. District of Columbia, 93 F.3d 801, 808 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Sturgis v. Am. Ass'n of Retired Persons, 1993 WL 518447 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (per curiam); Steffan v. Cheney, 920 F.2d 74, 75 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). However, the court's discretion is not without limits. Indeed, this Circuit has emphasized any sanctions awarded must be proportional to the underlying offense. Bonds, 93 F.3d at 808.
Id. at 16.

  Relief may also be awarded by the court pursuant to Rule 37(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if a party fails to attend his or her own deposition, answer interrogatories, ...


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