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