United States District Court, D. Maryland
JAMES A. WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, Defendant.
Xinis United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendant Montgomery County,
Maryland's motion to dismiss and for sanctions, ECF No.
25. The issues are fully briefed, ECF Nos. 27 & 28, and a
recorded call on the motion was held on May 2, 2018. ECF No.
31. Upon consideration of the parties' arguments, the
Court GRANTS the motion.
September 20, 2016, Plaintiff James A. Williams, Jr.
(“Williams”) asserted a claim through counsel,
William Payne (“Payne”), for employment
discrimination based on disability, in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). ECF No.
1. Williams' Complaint alleged that Defendant Montgomery
County, Maryland (“the County”), did not
accommodate Williams' physical disability, and that he
was wrongfully terminated. Id. The County was served
on January 5, 2017, and timely answered the Complaint on
January 26. ECF Nos. 3 & 4. The Court then issued a
Scheduling Order setting pertinent deadlines, to include:
February 13, 2017 - Initial Joint Status Report; April 3,
2017 - Williams' deadline for Rule 26(a)(2) disclosures;
May 24, 2017 - Rule 26(e) supplementation of disclosures and
responses; Close of Discovery - June 19, 2017. ECF No. 6.
County, complying with the Scheduling Order, filed its status
report on February 13, 2017. Although the Court's
Scheduling Order made plain that the parties must collaborate
to submit a joint status report, Williams did not do so, nor
did he file a separate status report. See generally
ECF No. 8.
12, Montgomery County served on Williams interrogatories and
requests for production of documents. ECF No. 25-4. Hearing
nothing from Plaintiff, counsel for Defendant attempted to
contact Payne on June 7 to arrange Williams' deposition.
ECF No. 25-1 at 2. Payne did not answer the call and his
phone did not have voicemail capabilities at the time. ECF
No. 25-1 at 2. Montgomery County followed with an email to
Payne the following day, attempting to ascertain the status
of Plaintiff's discovery responses and to schedule
Williams' deposition. See ECF No. 25-5. Payne
did not respond. ECF No. 25-1 at 2.
13, the County again attempted to reach Payne to request
Williams' deposition; the County also sought
Plaintiff's approval on a joint request to extend all
discovery deadlines by sixty (60) days so as to mitigate
Plaintiff's failure to answer interrogatories or respond
to document requests. ECF Nos. 9 & 25-1 at 2. Once again,
Payne did not respond to the County's counsel, prompting
the County to move for an extension of time to complete
discovery. In that motion, the County informed the Court of
Payne's non-responsiveness. See ECF No. 9 at
¶¶ 3- 10.
Court held a recorded discovery conference on June 26, 2017.
See ECF No. 11. During the call, Payne requested
extensions of the scheduling order and explained that his
failure to respond to the County was due to his health issues
and the unexpected death of his brother. Id. At the
same time, Payne assured the Court that he was able and
willing to represent Plaintiff and comply with the requested
discovery deadlines. Id. The Court granted the
requested extension and made plain to the parties that it
would not grant any further continuances absent a showing of
extraordinary circumstances. The Court also encouraged the
parties, and more particularly Payne, to contact the Court
should further problems arise. Id. The Court then
issued an amended Scheduling Order with the following
deadlines: July 26, 2017 - Plaintiff's Rule 26(a)(2)
disclosures; August 29, 2017 - Defendant's Rule 26(a)(2)
disclosures; September 19, 2017 - Rule 26(e)(2)
supplementation of disclosures and responses; close of
discovery - October 5, 2017. See ECF No. 12.
this backdrop, neither Williams nor his counsel participated
at all in discovery. Accordingly, on September 26,
2017, the County forewarned Williams by first-class mail and
electronic communication that failure to respond to its
discovery requests by October 2 would result in the County
filing a motion to compel and/or for sanctions, to include
dismissal of the case. ECF No. 25-5. The County also informed
Payne that because he had not responded to repeated attempts
to set Williams' deposition, the County was forced to
note Williams' deposition unilaterally for October 4 at
10:00 a.m., the day before the close of discovery and without
the benefit of any written discovery production. Id.
later, on October 3, Payne told counsel for the County that
he would respond to written discovery the following day,
October 4, and offered Williams for deposition on October 6
or October 9. Id. The parties then agreed that
Williams' deposition would take place on October 6 at
10:00 a.m. Id.
express warning as to the potential for sanctions including
dismissal, Williams did not submit discovery responses on
October 4, 2017. ECF No. 25-1 at 4. This failure prompted the
County to move for additional time to complete discovery and
disclose the likelihood that it would move to dismiss the
Complaint “based on the complete lack of cooperation
and discovery responses.” ECF No. 13. The County made
clear that it sought further extension only “out of an
abundance of caution.” Id. at ¶ 13. On
the same day, the County submitted a separate status report
pursuant to the Court's Scheduling Order. In it, the
County chronicled its repeated good-faith attempts to
complete discovery and that the parties had agreed to conduct
Williams' the next morning. ECF No. 14. Although once
again the Court's Scheduling Order made clear that the
parties were to collaborate on a joint status report, Payne
did not contribute or submit a separate status report on
same day, after the County had filed its motion and status
report - and shortly before close of business - Payne
informed counsel for the County that Williams' deposition
was cancelled because Williams conveyed that he was
“not quite ready.” Payne also informed counsel
that the promised written discovery would not be forthcoming.
See ECF Nos. 25-1 at 4, 25-9; see also ECF
No. 31. At its understandable wits end, the County then
withdrew its motion to extend discovery. ECF No. 15.
Discovery therefore closed by Court order as of October 5,
2017. Five days after the close of discovery, on October 10,
2017, Payne forwarded to counsel for the County Williams'
incomplete answers to interrogatories and responses to
document production. ECF No. 25-10. The discovery responses were
both deficient and highly prejudicial to the County,
identifying scores of previously undisclosed medical
providers, witnesses, and allegedly similarly situated
comparators. See ECF No. 25-10.
Court thereafter held a recorded status conference on
November 16, 2017, during which Payne did not deny that
Williams' deposition was cancelled at the client's
request and less than twenty-four hours before it was to take
place. Nor did Payne deny that he had failed to respond to
the County's discovery requests before October 5 . ECF
No. 20. Payne rather asked to reopen discovery, citing as
grounds in support the same health and other personal issues
on which he relied to support his previous continuance
request last June. Id. The Court declined to reopen
discovery and directed the County to file its motion to
dismiss as sanction. Id.
County filed its motion by the dispositive motions deadline.
ECF No. 25. Williams, through counsel, requested an extension
of time to file his response to the motion, and the response
was filed on January 22, 2018. ECF Nos. 26 & 27. During
the ensuing months, Plaintiff did not supplement discovery
responses or offer additional deposition dates in an effort
to cure any prejudice visited on the County by his dilatory
approach to discovery. Rather, in response to the
County's dismissal motion, Williams simply reiterated
that Payne's status as “a sole legal practitioner
with a large caseload, ” as well as the loss of his
brother and his back condition requiring “strong over
the counter medication, ” ...