United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
the Court in this employment-related case is a motion for
sanctions filed by Defendant Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc.
(“Maxim”), asking that the Court dismiss
Plaintiff Theresa Heggen's (“Heggen”)
complaint as a sanction due to Heggen's alleged
dishonesty under oath and destruction of evidence. (DE 35).
The motion is ripe for ruling. (DE 44; DE 45; DE 47).
following reasons, Maxim's motion for sanctions will be
granted to the extent that a lesser sanction in the form of a
monetary penalty will be imposed; Maxim's request for the
sanction of dismissal, however, will be denied.
Factual and Procedural Background
filed this case against her former employer, Maxim, on
December 29, 2016, advancing claims of sexual harassment and
retaliation in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil
Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (DE 1).
Maxim is a provider of temporary medical staffing, home
health care, and wellness services, and Heggen was employed
by Maxim as a home health care aide. (DE 36 at 1).
Court held a preliminary pretrial conference on March 9,
2017, setting a discovery deadline of September 29, 2017, and
discovery then commenced. (DE 15). On May 26, 2017, Heggen
responded to Maxim's First Set of Interrogatories (DE
36-9) and First Request for Production (DE 36-1), and on
August 11, 2017, Maxim conducted Heggen's deposition (DE
October 25, 2017, Heggen's prior counsel filed a motion
to withdraw, which the Court granted after a hearing on the
motion. (DE 27-DE 29). New counsel appeared on Heggen's
behalf on November 22, 2017. (DE 30).
December 12, 2017, Maxim filed the instant motion for
sanctions, seeking the sanction of dismissal due to
Heggen's alleged dishonesty under oath and destruction of
certain cell phone recordings that are material evidence in
this case. (DE 35).
Applicable Legal Standard
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “construed the
sanctioning power conveyed by [Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure] 37 to extend to instances of a party hiding
evidence and lying in [her] deposition.” Ramirez v.
T&H Lemont, Inc., 845 F.3d 772, 776 (7th Cir. 2016)
(citation omitted). “Apart from the discovery rule, a
court has the inherent authority to manage judicial
proceedings and to regulate the conduct of those appearing
before it, and pursuant to that authority may impose
appropriate sanctions to penalize and discourage
misconduct.” Id. (citing Chambers v.
NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 46-50 (1991)).
“Dismissal can be appropriate when the plaintiff has
abused the judicial process by seeking relief based on
information that the plaintiff knows is false.”
Secrease v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 800 F.3d 397,
401 (7th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted); see also
Greviskes v. Univs. Research Ass'n, Inc., 417 F.3d
752, 759 (7th Cir. 2005).
court also has the inherent power to assess sanctions for the
failure to preserve or produce [evidence.]” United
States v. Dish Network, L.L.C., 292 F.R.D 593, 599-600
(C.D. Ill. Apr. 24, 2013) (citation omitted); see Bryant
v. Gardner, 587 F.Supp.2d 951, 967-68 (N.D. Ill. Nov.
21, 2008) (“The Court has discretion to sanction a
party for spoliation of evidence.” (citation omitted)).
“A party has a duty to preserve evidence over which it
has control and reasonably knows or could foresee would be
material to a potential legal action.” Bryant,
587 F.Supp.2d at 967-68 (citations omitted); see also
ChampionsWorld, LLC v. U.S. Soccer Fed'n, 276 F.R.D
577, 582 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 17, 2011) (citation omitted).
“Sanctions [for spoliation of evidence] include
awarding reasonable expenses, attorney fees, barring evidence
or arguments, permitting adverse inferences, and dismissing
claims or entering default judgment.” Bryant,
587 F.Supp.2d at 968 (citations omitted); see
Norman-Nunnery v. Madison Area Tech. Coll., 625 F.3d
422, 428 (7th Cir. 2010) (“In order to draw an
inference that the missing documents contained information
adverse to the defendants, [the plaintiff] must demonstrate
that the defendants intentionally destroyed the documents in
bad faith.” (citations omitted)).
award of sanctions must be proportionate to the circumstances
surrounding the failure to comply with discovery.”
Crown Life Ins. Co. v. Craig, 995 F.2d 1376, 1382
(7th Cir. 1993). When a court enters a dismissal as a
discovery sanction, “the court must find that the party
against whom sanctions are imposed displayed willfulness, bad
faith or fault.” In re Golant, 239 F.3d 931,
936 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted); see
Secrease, 800 F.3d at 401 (“A district court has
inherent power to sanction a party who has willfully abused
the judicial process or otherwise conducted litigation in bad
faith.” (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted)); see also Collins v. Illinois, 554 F.3d
693, 696 (7th Cir. 2009). The Seventh Circuit has cautioned
that a court must use its dismissal power sparingly, as it is
a “harsh sanction” which should “be
employed only as a last resort.” Rice v. City of
Chicago, 333 F.3d 780, 786 (7th Cir. 2003) (citation
requests that this case be dismissed as a sanction for
Heggen's purported dishonesty under oath and destruction
of recordings from her cell phone. Maxim contends that Heggen
lied under oath about three topics: her employers prior to
Maxim, the circumstances of her departures from employers
after Maxim, and her litigation history. Heggen responds that
sanctions are not warranted because any issues concerning her
credibility can be challenged at trial, and because some of
the missing recordings have since been located at the Fort
Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission
(“METRO”). The Court will address each of
Maxim's reasons for requesting sanctions in turn.