United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
C. Poplin Magistrate Judge.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to
Rule 37(b)(2)(A)(v) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
(Doc. 43) and Defendants' second motion to compel
discovery (Doc. 45). For the following reasons,
Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 43) will be
DENIED and Defendants' motion to compel
(Doc. 45) will be DENIED IN PART AS MOOT and
REFERRED IN PART to United States Magistrate
Judge Debra C. Poplin.
filed this housing-discrimination action on February 5, 2018.
(Doc. 1.) The Court originally set it for trial on March 11,
2019. (Doc. 20.) In August 2018, the Court granted the
parties' joint motion to move the trial date to September
9, 2019, due to “delays with discovery.” (Doc.
22, at 1; Doc. 23.) Soon after, Plaintiff's previous
counsel withdrew, and Plaintiff has been proceeding pro
se since October 16, 2018. (Doc 25.) When his counsel
withdrew, Plaintiff moved for an indefinite extension of time
to find new counsel, which the Court denied because there
were no approaching deadlines. (Doc. 26, at 2; Doc. 28.) In
its order denying that motion, the Court noted:
[T]he earliest deadline in this case is March 4, 2019. (Doc.
23.) As noted in the Court's order allowing Attorney
Friauf to withdraw, “written discovery has been
substantially completed by both parties and . . . there is
ample time to complete discovery by the deadline[.]”
(Doc. 25, at 1.) The trial is set for September 19, 2019, and
are no other pending motions. (Id.; Doc. 23.)
several of the documents the Clerk mailed to Plaintiff were
returned as undeliverable (Docs. 29-31), indicating that
Plaintiff had failed to update his address in accordance with
Local Rule 83.13. (See Doc. 27.) Plaintiff blamed
this failure on his previous counsel, accusing him of
purposefully providing the Court “with an inaccurate
mailing address, so subsequent notices would not be timely
received, causing undue delay and prejudice to
Plaintiff.” (Doc. 50, at 2.) Plaintiff updated his
address on November 13, 2018 and appears to now be receiving
notice of filings. (Doc. 33.)
December 14, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge Debra C.
Poplin granted in part Defendants' motion to compel
discovery and ordered Plaintiff to respond by December 28,
2018 to Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories and
Requests for Production of Documents (“Discovery
Requests”), which Defendants served upon him in June
2018. (Doc. 34; Doc. 21, at 2.) Magistrate Judge Poplin
“admonishe[d] Plaintiff . . . that the failure to
respond to Defendants' Discovery Requests in a timely
manner may warrant sanctions, up to and including dismissal
of this case.” (Doc. 34 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(b)(2)).) When Plaintiff did not comply with Magistrate
Judge Poplin's order by responding to the Discovery
Requests, Defendants filed their first motion to dismiss on
January 3, 2019. (Doc. 35.) Defendants cited Plaintiff's
failure to respond to their Discovery Requests and to obey
the Court's December 14, 2018 discovery order as grounds
for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
responded only by filing a motion to stay the proceedings.
(Docs. 36, 37 (duplicate filings).) This motion, like his
previous motion to stay proceedings (Doc. 26), states that
Plaintiff has been prejudiced by his counsel's withdrawal
and argues that Plaintiff will be harmed absent a stay
“until legal counsel is retained . . . .” (Doc.
37, at 2.) The Court again denied Plaintiff's motion for
a stay of proceedings but allowed Plaintiff until February
28, 2019 to respond to Defendants' First Set of
Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents.
(Doc. 38, at 2.) The Court warned Plaintiff that
“failure to file [a notice of compliance] will result
in the Court's immediate consideration of Defendants'
outstanding motion to dismiss and/or dismissal under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 41.” (Id.) On February
27, 2019, when Plaintiff filed his notice and responses to
Defendants' Discovery Requests, it appeared he had
complied with the Court's January 15, 2019 order. (Doc.
39.) Accordingly, the Court denied Defendants' motion to
dismiss. (Doc. 40.)
later, Defendants filed a motion to extend all deadlines and
continue the trial date. (Doc. 41.) Defendants represented
that more time was needed to complete discovery because,
“[s]ince Plaintiff's counsel withdrew, there have
been no communications with the Plaintiff about discovery
responses until the responses were filed with this Court on
February 28, 2019. Counsel for Defendants has received no
documents despite the fact that the responses indicate
documents are being produced.” (Id. at 2.)
March 14, 2019, the Court convened a telephonic status
conference, for which Plaintiff failed to appear without good
cause, although Plaintiff had agreed upon the date and time.
Defendants' counsel participated in the conference and
stated that she sent Plaintiff a letter on March 13, 2019,
detailing discovery deficiencies and providing him an
opportunity to cure those deficiencies. (See Doc.
43-1, at 3-4 (Defendants' counsel's letter to
Plaintiff).) Because there was still time to complete
discovery prior to the deadlines for the final witness list
and the close of discovery, both in April, the Court denied
Defendants' motion to continue the deadlines and trial
date. (Doc. 42.) The Court, however, “remind[ed] the
parties of their obligation to comply in good faith with
discovery requests and urge[d] the parties to file any
necessary motions to compel discovery or for sanctions prior
to the relevant deadline.” (Id. at 2.)
days after the telephonic status conference, Plaintiff
responded with an e-mail addressing some of Defendants'
claims of deficiencies and inaccuracies. (Doc. 43-1, at 5.)
For example, he stated he did not have to list his private
e-mail address in response to an interrogatory.
(Id.) Defendants' counsel replied with an
additional deficiency, specifically Plaintiff's failure
to list his current litigation with his wife in his
interrogatory responses. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff
responded, in part, “You can file a motion to compel,
since I object to including any issues with my family in a
suit that is none of your business.” (Id.)
April 5, 2019, Defendants filed a second motion to compel
discovery (Doc. 45), a second motion to dismiss based on
Plaintiff's failure to properly respond to discovery
requests served upon him in June 2018 (Doc. 43), and a second
motion to extend all deadlines in the amended scheduling
order and continue the trial date (Doc. 44). Defendants'
counsel averred that she still had not received any
documents, even though Plaintiff indicated on February 27,
2019, in his interrogatory responses, that he would provide
them. (Doc. 43-1, at 1.) Defendants' motion to compel
lists a number of allegedly inaccurate interrogatory
responses, as well as the types ...