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Crawford v. Diversified Consultants

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 22, 2014



BETH P. GESNER, Magistrate Judge.

The above-referenced case was referred to the undersigned for discovery and review of defendants' Motion for Sanctions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 301. (ECF No. 18, 24.) Currently pending is defendants' Motion for Sanctions ("Motion") (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff did not file a response. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons discussed herein, I respectfully recommend that defendants' Motion (ECF No. 21) be granted and that relief be awarded as set forth herein.

I. Factual and Procedural History

On December 31, 2013, pro se plaintiff Hassan Crawford filed a complaint against Diversified Consultants, employee Christopher Zehnder, and John Does 1-10 for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Maryland Consumer Collection Practices Act, and the Maryland Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 16-43.) Plaintiff alleges that an unauthorized credit inquiry from defendants appeared on his credit score in October 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.) In November 2013, plaintiff alleges that he requested further information about the inquiry from defendants and received no answer, so he subsequently filed the present action. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-15.) Defendants filed an Answer (ECF No. 6) on February 19, 2014 and have actively participated in the instant case.

Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Provide Responses to Defendants' First Set of Discovery Requests on April 15, 2014. (ECF No. 17.) Defendants alleged that plaintiff had not provided responses to defendants' discovery requests. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Instead, plaintiff responded, on several occasions, by stating that he refused to comply with discovery requests and faxed a letter to defense counsel "requesting Defendants leave him alone." (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5.) When defendants attempted to confer with plaintiff about discovery issues and a joint status report, defendants report that plaintiff "refused to cooperate" and instead emailed defense counsel an invitation to join Twitter. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

On April 22, 2014, I granted Defendants' Motion to Compel and ordered plaintiff to provide complete, non-evasive discovery responses. (ECF No. 19.) ("April 22nd Order.") I cautioned plaintiff that "evasive or incomplete disclosures may be a basis for sanctions, up to and including an award of attorneys' fees and dismissal of the case." (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff faxed a response to my April 22nd Order to my chambers, seeking compensation for "the time lost dealing with [defendants'] false claim." (ECF No. 20 at 2.)

Defendants subsequently filed a Motion for Sanctions on May 22, 2014, seeking dismissal of the case due to plaintiff's failure to comply with my April 22nd Order. (ECF No. 21.) According to defendants' Motion for Sanctions, plaintiff had still not provided discovery responses, but rather had sent defense counsel multiple "invoices" for plaintiff's work on his own discovery responses. (Id. at 3.) Defendants argue that plaintiff has acted in bad faith by ignoring court orders. (ECF No. 21 at ¶ 19.) Defendants maintain that plaintiff's actions have prejudiced defendants, prevented the litigation from proceeding, and are an abuse of the judicial process. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-22.) Plaintiff did not respond to defendants' Motion.

On June 12, 2014, I ordered plaintiff to respond to defendants' discovery requests or face dismissal. (ECF No. 22.) ("June 12th Order.") I directed defendants to advise the court if plaintiff did not comply with my order. (Id.) On July 3, 2014, defendants filed a correspondence stating that plaintiff neither provided discovery responses nor filed an opposition to defendants' Motion for Sanctions. (Defs.' Corresp., ECF No. 23.) Defendants request that their Motion for Sanctions be granted, that plaintiff's case be dismissed with prejudice, and that plaintiff be sanctioned the sum of $2, 802.50, the amount of defendants' attorneys' fees. (Id.)

II. Standard for Dismissal as a Sanction

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 provides that "[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 41(b). Before dismissing a case under Rule 41, the court must consider:

(1) the plaintiff's degree of personal responsibility; (2) the amount of prejudice caused the defendant; (3) the presence of a drawn out history of deliberately proceeding in a dilatory fashion; and (4) the effectiveness of sanctions less drastic than dismissal.

Hillig v. Comm'r , 916 F.2d 171, 174 (4th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Arnett v. Prince George's Cnty., 2004 WL 3313218, at *2 (D. Md. 2004).

Additionally, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, the court is empowered to sanction a party for failure to comply with a court order regarding discovery. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 37(b)(2)(A). Applicable sanctions include "dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 37(b)(2)(A)(v). Prior to imposing sanctions, the court should consider:

(1) whether the noncomplying party acted in bad faith; (2) the amount of prejudice his noncompliance caused his adversary, which necessarily includes an inquiry into the materiality of the evidence he failed to produce; (3) the need for deterrence of the particular sort ...

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