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Boyd v. SFS Communications, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 5, 2018

JAMES HERBERT BOYD, JR., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SFS COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Timothy J. Sullivan United States Magistrate Judge

         This Report and Recommendation addresses the “Motion for Entry of a Default Judgment and Other Sanctions against SFS Communications, LLC, and Ferdous Ahmed Sharif” (“Motion”) (ECF No. 95) filed by Plaintiffs James Herbert Boyd, Jr., et al. On August 15, 2017, Judge Messitte referred this case to me for all discovery and related scheduling matters. (ECF No. 66.) Having considered the submissions of the parties (ECF Nos. 95, 97, 98, 99 & 100), I find that a hearing is unnecessary.[1] See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, I respectfully recommend that Plaintiffs' Motion be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiffs filed this putative collective action against Defendants on October 8, 2015, asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.; the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab & Empl. §§ 3-413 and 3-415; and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab & Empl. §§ 3-502, 3-503, 3-505, and 3-507.2. (ECF No. 1.) On January 27, 2017, the Court conditionally certified the case pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (ECF Nos. 48 & 49.) The Court entered a Scheduling Order on June 6, 2017, which was modified at the request of the parties to include a discovery deadline of March 16, 2018. (ECF Nos. 58 & 60.)

         On August 14, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel answers to interrogatories and responses to document production requests from Defendants SFS Communications, LLC (“SFS”) and Ferdous Ahmed Sharif (“Sharif”). (ECF No. 65.) Before Plaintiffs' motion was fully briefed, the parties filed a joint motion for a “sixty (60) day stay of all proceedings while the parties explore the possibility of settlement.” (ECF No. 68.) The Court granted the parties' joint motion and stayed the case until October 28, 2017. (ECF No. 69.) Before the expiration of the stay, the parties filed a joint motion to extend the stay until December 27, 2017. (ECF No. 70.) The Court granted this motion, extending the stay until December 27, 2017. (ECF No. 71.)

         On February 21, 2018, the parties filed a “Joint Motion to Lift Stay of Proceedings and Enter Scheduling Order” (ECF No. 76).[2] In this motion, the parties stated that they were unable to resolve the matter through mediation, and requested that the Court lift the stay and issue a new scheduling order with a discovery deadline of October 26, 2018. (Id. at 2.) The court granted the parties' motion and denied the parties' previously filed motion to compel (ECF No. 65) as moot. (ECF Nos. 77 & 78.)

         Plaintiffs renewed their previously filed motion to compel on March 16, 2018.[3] (ECF No. 80.) In their response to the renewed motion to compel, SFS and Sharif acknowledged that “they must now participate in discovery, ” and requested “a period of 30 days to prepare substantive written responses and compile documents responsive to Plaintiffs' discovery requests.” (ECF No. 82 at 2.) The Court held an informal telephone conference with the parties on March 29, 2018. (ECF No. 85.) At the conclusion of the call, the Court directed SFS and Sharif to provide their discovery responses to Plaintiffs no later than April 27, 2018. The Plaintiffs' renewed motion to compel was again found to be moot. (ECF No. 86.)

         On April 16, 2018, counsel for SFS and Sharif filed a Motion to Withdraw. (ECF No. 87.) In the motion, counsel advised the Court that they had advised their clients “that SFS would be required to retain new counsel and have him/her file a notice of appearance in this action; and that Sharif has the option to retain new counsel, or provide notice to the Clerk of the Court that he intends to proceed without counsel.” (Id. at 1-2.) The Court entered a Memorandum on May 9, 2018, regarding the Motion to Withdraw. (ECF No. 91.) The Court indicated that it was inclined to grant the motion, but that “Local Rule 101.1(a) requires that all parties other than individuals must be represented by counsel.” (Id.) Noting that new counsel for SFS had not yet entered an appearance, the Court stated that SFS would have 20 days to obtain new counsel, and that if new counsel did not enter an appearance in that time, the Court would be “prepared to grant the Motion to Withdraw and entertain any Motion for Default Judgment as to SFS.” (Id.) The Court deferred ruling on the Motion to Withdraw. (Id.)

         On April 30, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their “Second Motion to Motion to Compel Answers to Interrogatories and Responses to Requests for Production of Documents, and for Sanctions” (ECF No. 89). In that motion, which was Plaintiffs' third attempt to obtain an order compelling the production of discovery from SFS and Sharif, Plaintiffs reported that SFS and Sharif had “improperly refused to respond to proper discovery because of their own statement - for a second time - that a bankruptcy filing is near.” (Id. at 1.) Plaintiffs stated that SFS and Sharif had not provided the discovery responses by April 27, 2018, as they had previously promised. (Id.) SFS and Sharif did not file a substantive response to the motion.[4]

         The Court granted Plaintiffs' Second Motion to Compel. (ECF No. 94.) The Court ordered SFS and Sharif to “produce full and complete Answers to Interrogatories, Responses to Plaintiffs' Requests for Production of Documents, and all responsive documents” by June 1, 2018. (Id.) The Court warned SFS and Sharif that failure to comply with the Court's Order could result in the following sanctions:

(i) directing that the matters embraced in the order or other designated facts be taken as established for purposes of the action, as the prevailing party claims; (ii) prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses, or from introducing designated matters in evidence; (iii) striking pleadings in whole or in part; (iv) staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed; (v) dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part; (vi) rendering a default judgment against the disobedient party; or (vii) treating as contempt of court the failure to obey any order except an order to submit to a physical or mental examination.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(A)(i)-(vii). (Id.)

         On June 6, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the Motion for Entry of a Default Judgment (ECF No. 95). In the Motion, Plaintiffs state that SFS and Sharif did not comply with the Court's Order granting Plaintiffs' Second Motion to Compel (ECF No. 94), that SFS did not appear for its properly noted deposition, and that SFS has failed to obtained new counsel. SFS and Sharif have not responded to the Motion and the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Failure to Respond to Discovery and Noncompliance with Court Order

         Plaintiffs state that neither SFS nor Sharif has “responded to Plaintiffs' discovery as they were directed to in this Court's May 29, 2018, Order. ...


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