United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Strike the
Answer of the Defendant M.E.C. Tech, Inc. ("M.E.C")
(ECF No. 3). In this action, West Coast Quartz Corporation
("West Coast") filed a complaint on April 22, 2016
against M.E.C. alleging they failed to pay invoices for a
series of sales of industrial components and materials,
totaling approximately $366, 044, not including accrued
interest of 1.5% per month for all the past due invoices. On
June 4, 2016, M.E.C. Tech, Inc. filed its Answer. On October
3, 2016, West Coast served three written discovery requests
upon M.E.C. for which responses were due on November 11,
2016. M.E.C. failed to provide Request for Production of
Documents and Interrogatories by November 11, 2016.
November 15, 2016, West Coast's counsel Brian Song sent a
discovery demand letter. Defendant's counsel, Richard M.
Sasso, sent a reply letter on November 16, 2016 stating
"I cannot tell you when you might be in receipt of the
same." On or around November 17, 2016, West Coast sent a
letter proposing the parties enter into a stipulated issue or
evidence sanction as a remedy concerning the Defendant's
failure to respond and on November 18, 2016, Mr. Sasso
rejected West Coast's proposal.
November 21, 2016, West Coast's attorney sent a letter to
Magistrate Judge Goodman and requested an Order compelling
discovery responses. Judge Goodman held a hearing on December
5, 2016. During the hearing, Mr. Sasso acknowledged that his
client (M.E.C.) failed to provide discovery and
non-responsiveness. Judge Goodman ordered M.E.C. to serve
certified responses to the discovery requests by December 30,
2016. (ECF No. 12). M.E.C. failed to respond and serve
certified responses as required by the Court's Order.
January 9, 2016, the Court held a telephone status call
regarding the discovery request status. Mr. Sasso admitted
that M.E.C. had not returned his phone calls, not paid any
legal fees and certified mail sent to M.E.C. was returned. To
date, M.E.C. has not complied with the Court's December
21, 2016 Order.
February 20, 2017, West Coast filed the First Motion to
Strike Answer of Defendant. (ECF No. 14).
determining whether to sanction or dismiss a case for lack of
prosecution including failure to provide discovery, the Court
considers six factors set forth in the Third Circuit case of
Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co.
("Poulis factors"). The Poulis
factors include: (1) the extent of the party's personal
responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by
the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to
discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the
conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad
faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than
dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative
sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or
defense. The Court is required to balance each factor in its
analysis and no single factor is determinative. Poulis v.
State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 1A1 F.2d 863 (3d Cir.
Extent of Party's Personal Responsibility
respect to the first Poulis factor, the Court finds
the Defendant M.E.C. has failed to diligently pursue this
litigation. All litigants must comply with court orders.
M.E.C. Tech Inc. has failed to provide discovery or respond
in any manner to the discovery requests. Thus, the first
Poulis factor weighs in favor of West Coast.
Prejudice to Plaintiff
second Poulis factor requires examination of the
prejudice to other parties caused by the delay. This factor
weighs in favor of striking the Answer and entering a Default
Judgment against M.E.C. "While prejudice for the purpose
of Poulis analysis does not mean 'irremediable
harm, ' the burden imposed by impeding a party's
ability to prepare effectively a full and complete trial
strategy is sufficiently prejudicial." Ware v.
Rodale Press, Inc., 322 F.3d 218, 222 (3d. Cir. 2003).
Prejudice includes "deprivation of information through
noncooperation with discovery, and costs expended obtaining
court orders to force compliance with discovery."
Adams v. Tr. of the N.J. Brewery Emp. Pension Tr.
Fund, 29 F.3d 863, 874 (3d. Cir. 1994). West Coast
cannot properly pursue this claim because of M.E.C.'s
failure to comply with discovery obligations. M.E.C. has
ignored the Court's Order and counsel, Mr. Song's
points of contact. Without discovery, West Coast has
insufficient information and has been impeded from preparing
a summary judgment motion, thereby suffering prejudice. Thus,
the second Poulis factor weighs in favor of West
History of Dilatoriness
respect to the third Poulis factor, "extensive
or repeated delay or delinquency constitutes a history of
dilatoriness." Id. This includes consistent
non-response to interrogatories, or consistent tardiness in
complying with court orders. Id. If unable to comply
with time limits, counsel may request an extension to the
court. Under Poulis, "time limits imposed by
the rules and the court serve an important purpose for the
expeditious processing of litigation." Poulis,
1A1 F.2d at 868. "A history by counsel of ignoring
these time limits is intolerable." Id. Judge
Goodman ordered M.E.C. to serve certified responses to the
discovery requests by December 30, 2016. M.E.C. failed to
respond to the Court's Order and outreach from counsel,
Mr. Song. The Defendant has not sought an extension of time
from the Court nor explained the failure to respond and has
continued to delay discovery by failing to provide responses.
The delay in the case caused by the Defendant weighs in favor
of West Coast's request.