United States District Court, D. Maryland
Honorable Paula Xinis United States District Judge.
before the Court is a motion for sanctions filed by
Defendants Bank of America, N.A (“BANA”) and Bank
of New York Mellon (collectively “Defendants”).
ECF No. 41. The issues are fully briefed and the Court now
rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed
necessary. For the reasons that follow, Defendants'
motion is granted.
March 9, 2015, Sandra Pruitt (“Pruitt” or
“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint in the Circuit
Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. ECF No. 2.
The complaint was properly removed to this Court on May 7,
2015. ECF No. 1. In her complaint, Pruitt alleges that
Defendants are not entitled to enforce the terms of a
mortgage loan and the related deed of trust and that
Defendant Bank of America reneged on its promise to modify
her mortgage loan. She asserts five counts: usury, unjust
enrichment, declaratory judgment, breach of contract, and
15, 2015, Defendants BANA and Bank of New York Mellon filed a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). ECF No. 16. The Court
wrote Pruitt a letter, dated June 16, 2015, cautioning Pruitt
that her case could be dismissed if she failed to respond.
ECF No. 17. Pruitt did not provide any opposition or response
of any kind to Defendants' motion. On January, 28, 2016,
the Court granted the motion to dismiss in part and denied
the motion as to Plaintiff's claims of breach of contract
and promissory estoppel. ECF No. 21.
Defendants BANA and Bank of New York Mellon answered the
complaint, the Court entered a scheduling order on February
16, 2016. The Court originally anticipated that discovery
would close on June 30, 2016. The dispositive motions
deadline was set for roughly a month later. ECF No. 23 at 2.
On August 9, 2016, the scheduling order was amended, with the
close of discovery scheduled for August 30, 2016 and
dispositive motions due roughly a month later. ECF No. 31.
September 14, 2016, Defendant BANA filed a motion to compel
discovery and for sanctions (ECF No. 35), alleging that
interrogatories propounded upon Plaintiff on May 6, 2016 went
unanswered. Defendants also requested that sanctions be
imposed should Plaintiff fail to appear at her September 22,
2016 deposition. Then, in Defendants' September 27, 2016
motion to modify the scheduling order (ECF No. 36),
Defendants BANA and Bank of New York Mellon informed the
Court that Plaintiff failed to appear at her September 22,
2016 deposition. Plaintiff did not respond to either
October 4, 2016, this Court granted in part Defendant
BANA's motion to compel, ordering Pruitt to provide
discovery responses no later than October 21, 2016. ECF No.
38 at 2. Pruitt was also ordered to attend a deposition no
later than October 26, 2016. Id. The Court cautioned
Plaintiff that “failure to obey this Memorandum Opinion
and Order may result in sanctions, including dismissal of the
action, upon motion by the Defendant.” Id. The
Court sent the order to Plaintiff via certified mail to
Plaintiff's last-known address. See Docket Entry
for ECF No. 38.
moved for sanctions on November 9, 2016, arguing that
dismissal was warranted because Plaintiff failed to comply
with this Court's order. ECF No. 40. Pruitt did not
respond to this motion. Nonetheless, the Court denied the
motion without prejudice because it was not accompanied by a
Certificate of Good Faith as required by Local Rule 104.7.
ECF No. 40. Defendants re-filed their motion on November 29,
2016, accompanied by a Certificate of Good Faith. ECF Nos. 40
& 41-2. Counsel for Defendant BANA certified that she
sent correspondence to Plaintiff on July 13, 2016, September
6, 2016, September 12, 2016, September 20, 2016, and
September 21, 2016 to obtain Plaintiff's discovery
responses and to schedule Plaintiff's deposition. ECF No.
41-2 at 5-11. On October 4, 2016, BANA's counsel
forwarded the Court's October 4, 2016 order to Plaintiff.
ECF No. 41-2 at 2, 11. Plaintiff did not respond to
Defendant's emails, did not provide discovery responses,
and did not make herself available for deposition by the
Court's deadline. ECF No. 41-2 at 2; ECF No. 41-1 at 2-4.
Consequently, the Defendants sought dismissal of the action.
BANA and Bank of New York Mellon seek sanctions pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A). That rule
permits a district court to impose certain punitive measures,
up to and including dismissal, on any party who disobeys a
discovery order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2) (A). “Rule
37(b)(2) gives the court a broad discretion to make whatever
disposition is just in the light of the facts of the
particular case.” 8B Charles Alan Wright, et al.,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 2289 (3d ed.
2016); see also Camper v. Home Quality Mgmt. Inc.,
200 F.R.D. 516, 518 (D. Md. 2000) (“Federal district
courts possess great discretion to sanction parties for
failure to obey discovery orders.”).
specifically ask the Court to impose dismissal, “the
most severe in the spectrum of sanctions.”
Nat'l Hockey League v. Metro. Hockey Club, Inc.,
427 U.S. 639, 643 (1976). But “[w]hile the imposition
of sanctions under Rule 37(b) lies within the trial
court's discretion, it is not a discretion without bounds
or limits.” Hathcock v. Navistar Int'l Transp.
Corp., 53 F.3d 36, 40 (4th Cir. 1995) (quotation marks
and brackets omitted). This is particularly so when a party
requests the severe penalty of dismissal. Id. Thus,
a district court should consider four factors in determining
what sanctions to impose under Rule 37: “(1) whether
the noncomplying party acted in bad faith; (2) the amount of
prejudice that noncompliance caused the adversary; (3) the
need for deterrence of the particular sort of non-compliance;
and (4) whether less drastic sanctions would have been
effective.” Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of
Educ., 269 F.3d 305, 348 (4th Cir. 2001) (quotation
party's total failure to comply with the mandates of
discovery, with no explanation for that failure, can
certainly justify this harshest of sanctions. See,
e.g., CoStar Realty Info., Inc. v. Field, 737
F.Supp.2d 496, 502 (D. Md. 2010); Middlebrooks v.
Sebelius, No. 04-2792, 2009 WL 2514111, at *1-3 (D. Md.
Aug. 13, 2009); Aerodyne Sys. Eng'g, Ltd. v. Heritage
Int'l Bank, 115 F.R.D. 281, 290-91 (D. Md. 1987)
(dismissing complaint without prejudice where plaintiff
failed for several months to respond adequately to discovery
requests, ignored court orders, and did not seeks extensions
or protective orders); see also Roman v. ESB, Inc.,
550 F.2d 1343, 1349 (4th Cir. 1976) (finding dismissal
sanction appropriate where plaintiffs “had failed to
respond to interrogatories; failed to respond to an order
entered by the district court requiring a response to the
interrogatories; and additionally failed to respond upon
specific request after the court had denied, without
prejudice, a first motion to dismiss”).
and depositions are important elements of discovery; a
defendant would be hard-pressed to conduct its case without
them. When a plaintiff refuses to respond to such requests,
it can have a debilitating effect on the rest of the
litigation. “If a party served with interrogatories
fails to answer them on time, or at all, . . . such action
can have a spiraling effect on the future scheduling of
discovery, and inject into the litigation collateral disputes
which typically require the intervention of the court to
resolve.” Jayne H. Lee, Inc. v. Flagstaff Indus.
Corp., 173 F.R.D. 651, 653 (D. Md. 1997). Likewise,
failure to attend a deposition can derail the discovery
process. See Rogler v. Fotos, No. WDQ-14-228, 2015
WL 7253688, at *5 (D. Md. Nov. 17, 2015), aff'd,
No. 16-1323, 2016 WL ...