United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge
Bay moves to dismiss this action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) due
to Mr. Jones's alleged failure to comply with court
orders and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [Doc. No.
320]. To the extent Runaway Bay needed leave of the court to
file its motion, [see Doc. No. 298 at 11], the court
for failure to comply with a court order “is a harsh
sanction that should be imposed infrequently, ” but
“the power to sanction through dismissal is essential
to the district courts' ability to manage efficiently
their heavy caseloads and thus protect the interests of all
litigants.” Salata v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 757
F.3d 695, 699 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Roland v. Salem
Contract Carriers, Inc., 811 F.2d 1175, 1177-1178 (7th
Cir. 1987)). “The court should exercise this right
sparingly and should dismiss a case under Rule 41 only
‘when there is a clear record of delay or contumacious
conduct, or when other less drastic sanctions have proven
unavailing.' ” Id. (quoting Webber v.
Eye Corp., 721 F.2d 1067, 1069 (7th Cir. 1983). A court
must take care to “tailor sanctions to the severity of
plaintiff['s] misconduct.” Nelson v.
Schultz, 878 F.3d 236, 238- 239 (7th Cir. 2017). Mr.
Jones is proceeding pro se in this matter, but
pro se litigants aren't exempt from Rules of
Civil Procedure and must follow the court's orders.
Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir.
October 10, 2017, Runaway Bay served a set of interrogatories
and a request for production of documents on Mr. Jones. [Doc.
Nos. 150, 151]. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2) and
34(b)(2)(A), Mr. Jones was required to answer or object to
the interrogatories and respond to the request for production
within 30 days. He didn't do either. This failure to
comply with the Rules required Runaway Bay to file a motion
to compel. [Doc. No. 198]. At a February 22, 2018, hearing on
discovery matters, Magistrate Judge Michael Gotsch, Sr.
offered both parties the opportunity to raise any
discovery-related issue of concern and the parties discussed
the interrogatories and request for production. Mr. Jones
agreed to respond to the interrogatories by February 23, and
to the request for production by February 28.
Jones timely served and filed his interrogatory responses,
[Doc. No. 231], and his response to Runaway Bay's request
for production. [Doc. No. 239]. Mr. Jones's responses
contained numerous objections that Runaway Bay claimed were
unjustifiable, so it filed motions to compel. [Doc. Nos. 232,
242]. Magistrate Judge Gotsch held that Mr. Jones's
objections were baseless and unsupported by legal authority,
granted the motions to compel, ordered Mr. Jones to produce
the outstanding information by March 26, [Doc. No. 274], and
awarded Runaway Bay expenses as a sanction because Mr.
Jones's objections weren't justified. [Doc. No. 298].
than comply with the court's order, Mr. Jones objected to
Magistrate Judge Gotsch's order, arguing that Magistrate
Judge Gotsch's discovery rulings were wrong and that he
didn't receive Magistrate Judge Gotsch's order until
March 26 - the day his production was due. [Doc. Nos. 279,
280]. Because Magistrate Judge Gotsch's order contained
no error whatsoever, the court overruled Mr. Jones's
objection and ordered Mr. Jones to comply with it
immediately. [Doc. No. 282].
Jones then moved for an extension of time to respond to the
interrogatories and the request for production and Magistrate
Judge Gotsch gave him until April 30, to respond. [Doc. No.
298]. Magistrate Judge Gotsch advised Mr. Jones that
“failure to comply with this order could result in
further sanctions up to and including dismissal of this
case.” Id. When Mr. Jones didn't fully
comply, Runaway Bay moved to dismiss.
granting a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 41(b), courts
[T]he frequency and magnitude of the plaintiff's failure
to comply with deadlines for the prosecution of the suit, the
apportionment of responsibility for those failures between
the plaintiff and his counsel, the effect of those failures
on the judge's calendar and time, the prejudice if any to
the defendant caused by the plaintiff's dilatory conduct,
the probable merits of the suit, and the consequences of
dismissal for the social objectives of the type of litigation
that the suit represents.
McMahan v. Deutsche Bank AG, 892 F.3d 926, 931-932
(7th Cir. 2018).
only has Mr. Jones repeatedly failed to comply with the
court's orders as just described, he has blamed the court
for his failures. In attempting to justify his conduct, Mr.
Jones said that “[I]t's not the plaintiff's
fault that . . . proper objections [to discovery requests]
were not sustained” and “[i]t would be
[p]rejudic[ial] for the plaintiff to have to pay the
defendant awards in expenses because Magistrate Judge
[Gotsch] failed to outline what would happen if my objections
[were] not sustained and exactly what discovery would be
required to be produced on what date.” [Doc. No. 292].
In objecting to Magistrate Judge Gotsch's order, Mr.
Jones said “it's not the plaintiff['s] fault
that Judge Gotsch was unsuccessful [in] resolving discovery
disputes, ” outlined what he claimed would have been a
reasonable order, and said “I would have obeyed this
type of reasonable order.” [Doc. No. 312]. Because Mr.
Jones is proceeding pro se, he alone is responsible
for the conduct at issue.
Jones's conduct has unnecessarily delayed action on this
relatively straightforward Fair Housing Act case. He has
swamped the court with frivolous filings and his failure to
comply with discovery orders has necessitated multiple
hearings. Mr. Jones's dilatory conduct also required the
court to first continue and then vacate the trial setting in
this case. His actions have prejudiced the defendant. His
delay in producing health records meant that Runaway Bay
didn't have access to relevant records when deposing Mr.
Jones and his vexatious litigation strategy has made it
difficult for Runaway Bay to secure an expert witness. The
court is hesitant to weigh the merits of the suit at this
juncture, but notes that Mr. Jones hasn't come forward
with evidence of intentional discrimination. A
dismissal's impact on the social objectives of the type
of litigation weighs slightly against dismissal.
considered these factors, dismissal is warranted and is a
reasonable exercise of discretion in this case. Accordingly,
the court GRANTS Runaway Bay's motion to dismiss, [Doc.
No. 320], and DISMISSES this case with prejudice pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). The court ...