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Simpson v. Brand Energy Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 5, 2015

SHANE SIMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BRAND ENERGY SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Brand Energy Services, LLC's unopposed motion for sanctions of dismissal. [Docket Item 29.] In this action, Plaintiff Shane Simpson, a former employee of Brand Energy alleges, inter alia, that he was discriminated against on the basis of disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"). Brand Energy seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's claims under Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984) because Mr. Simpson has repeatedly ignored the Court's orders and failed to appear at court-scheduled hearings. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Brand Energy's motion and dismiss Plaintiff's case in its entirety with prejudice.

1. On or about November 27, 2013, Plaintiff Shane Simpson filed this action against Brand Energy in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County, Docket No. L-4802-13. Brand Energy timely removed this action to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1441 and 1446. [Docket Item 1.]

2. Plaintiff was initially represented in this action by Deborah L. Mains, Esq., Kevin M. Costello, Esq., and Daniel T. Silverman, Esq. of the law offices of Costello & Mains, P.C. However, on May 6, 2014, Costello & Mains filed a motion to withdraw as Plaintiff's attorneys.[1] [Docket Item 13.]

3. The Honorable Joel Schneider scheduled a hearing on the motion to withdraw for June 5, 2014 and ordered Plaintiff to appear. [Docket Item 16.] Judge Schneider held the hearing on June 5, 2014 with Deborah Mains, Esq. appearing for Plaintiff and Alexander Nemiroff, Esq. appearing for Brand Energy. [Docket Item 18.] Plaintiff did not appear. Judge Schneider continued the hearing until July 8, 2014 and again ordered Plaintiff to appear. [Docket Item 19.] Plaintiff failed to appear at the hearing for a second time. [Docket Item 22.]

4. Judge Schneider granted the motion to withdraw noting that "there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship between [Ms. Mains] and Plaintiff." [Docket Item 24.] Judge Schneider directed Ms. Mains to serve a copy of the order on Plaintiff by mail and to file a proof of service with the Clerk of Court. Plaintiff was to secure new counsel by August 15, 2014 or be deemed to be proceeding pro se.

Additionally, Judge Schneider directed Plaintiff to respond to all outstanding interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admission by August 29, 2014.[2] Plaintiff's former counsel certified that Plaintiff was served with the Court's order and provided the Court with Plaintiff's last known address and phone number. [Docket Item 25.]

5. On September 2, 2014, Brand Energy filed a motion to compel discovery seeking an order requiring Plaintiff to respond to interrogatories, document demands, and requests for admission. [Docket Item 26.] Judge Schneider, by order entered October 16, 2014, granted Brand Energy's motion and ordered Plaintiff to respond to its discovery requests by October 31, 2014. [Docket Item 28.]

6. On November 3, 2014, Brand Energy, noting that Plaintiff failed to comply with the Court October 16, 2014 order, filed the instant motion for sanctions of dismissal pursuant to Rule 37(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., and Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984). [Docket Item 29.]

7. This Court, noting that Plaintiff had not submitted opposition to Brand Energy's motion for sanctions and that he was proceeding pro se, ordered Plaintiff to file opposition to Brand Energy's motion or indicate that it is unopposed no later than December 5, 2014.[3] [Docket Item 31.] The Court, having received no response from Plaintiff, deems Brand Energy's motion for sanctions unopposed.

8. Pursuant to Rule 37(b) (2)(A)(v), Fed. R. Civ. P., a court may dismiss an action where a plaintiff fails to obey a discovery order. In determining whether dismissal is an appropriate sanction for violation of a discovery order, courts will generally consider the factors outlined in Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Casualty, 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984), although such analysis is not always necessary. Dover v. Diguglielmo, 181 F.Appx. 234, 237-38 (3d Cir. 2006) ("[A] Poulis analysis is unnecessary when a litigant's willful conduct prevents the case from going forward, thereby giving a district court no option but dismissal."). The six Poulis factors are: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) prejudice to the adversary; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct was willful or in bad faith; (5) availability of alternative sanctions; and, (6) the meritoriousness of the claim. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868. "Not all of these factors need be met for a district court to find dismissal is warranted." Hicks v. Feeney, 850 F.2d 152, 156 (3d Cir. 1988). The Third Circuit has "required consideration of the Poulis factors when a district court dismisses a case pursuant to Rule 37(b) for failure to respond to discovery." Knoll v. City of Allentown, 707 F.3d 406, 409 (3d Cir. 2013).

9. Brand Energy requests that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's suit in its entirety as a sanction for Plaintiff's repeated failure to comply with the Court's orders and to respond to Defendant's discovery requests. A review of the Poulis factors shows that dismissal with prejudice is proper.

10. Plaintiff, as a pro se litigant, is solely responsible for his failure to comply with the Court's orders. See Briscoe v. Klaus, 538 F.3d 252, 258-59 (3d Cir. 2008) ("It is logical to hold a pro se plaintiff personally responsible for delays in his case because a pro se plaintiff is solely responsible for the progress of his case, whereas a plaintiff represented by counsel relies, at least in part, on his or her attorney."). Plaintiff is undoubtedly responsible for his willful disregard of four Court orders: two directing him to appear at hearings and two ordering him to respond to Brand Energy's discovery requests. As such, the Court finds that Plaintiff is personally responsible for his failure to comply with the Court's orders.

11. The prejudice to Brand Energy caused by Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's orders supports dismissal. The Third Circuit has instructed that "prejudice is not limited to irremediable' or irreparable' harm" and "includes the burden imposed by impeding a party's ability to prepare effectively a full and complete trial strategy." Briscoe, 538 F.3d at 259 (internal citation and quotation omitted "Oftentimes, this type of prejudice involves disputes between the parties on discovery matters because the defendants were deprived of necessary information or had to expend costs to obtain court orders for compliance." Id . See also Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868 (finding prejudice to defendant where plaintiff filed neither answers nor objections to interrogatories and defense counsel was forced to file a motion to compel answers In the present case, Plaintiff's refusal to provide discovery responses has caused delays and obliged Brand Energy to litigate this case without the necessary information to formulate a defense, forcing Defendant to file a motion to compel and the instant request ...


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