332 F.R.D. 450 (W.D.N.Y. 2019), 6:11-CV-06013 EAW, Richard v. Dignean

Docket Nº:6:11-CV-06013 EAW
Citation:332 F.R.D. 450, 104 Fed.R.Serv.3d 1712
Opinion Judge:ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.
Party Name:John Willis RICHARD, #91-A-0169, Plaintiff, v. Jennifer DIGNEAN and Thomas Tanea, Defendants.
Attorney:John Willis Richard, Woodbourne, NY, pro se. J. Richard Benitez, N.Y.S. Attorney General’s Office Department of Law, Rochester, NY, for Defendants.
Case Date:October 04, 2019
Court:United States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Western District of New York

Page 450

332 F.R.D. 450 (W.D.N.Y. 2019)

104 Fed.R.Serv.3d 1712

John Willis RICHARD, #91-A-0169, Plaintiff,

v.

Jennifer DIGNEAN and Thomas Tanea, Defendants.

No. 6:11-CV-06013 EAW

United States District Court, W.D. New York

October 4, 2019

Page 451

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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John Willis Richard, Woodbourne, NY, pro se.

J. Richard Benitez, N.Y.S. Attorney General’s Office Department of Law, Rochester, NY, for Defendants.

DECISION & ORDER

ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Pro se Plaintiff John Willis Richard ("Plaintiff"), an inmate currently confined at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, commenced this action on December 3, 2010, asserting various claims against a number of Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") personnel pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. 1). Although this action proceeded through the discovery process, Plaintiff now seeks certain discoverable materials that were purportedly never submitted or were provided in inadequate form in response to various discovery requests, as well as sanctions flowing from Defendants’

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failure to follow discovery rules and prior court orders. (Dkt. 84).1

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery and for sanctions. (Dkt. 84). For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

I. Summary of Pertinent Procedural History

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants conspired to and committed various instances of discriminatory, retaliatory, and harassing conduct in an effort to unlawfully isolate his cell-block programming. (Dkt. 1). On August 7, 2014, the Court dismissed all defendants from this action with the exception of the two remaining defendants in this matter, Jennifer Dignean ("Dignean") and Thomas Tanea ("Tanea") (collectively, "Defendants"). (Dkt. 22). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s second cause of action, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause as against both Defendants, and Plaintiff’s third cause of action, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim, remain the sole claims in this action.

On August 27, 2014, Defendants filed an Answer (Dkt. 23), and the case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson for all pretrial matters excluding dispositive motions (Dkt. 24). On October 15, 2014, Judge Payson issued a scheduling order requiring Defendants to serve their initial disclosures by December 1, 2014. (Dkt. 26 at ¶ 3). Defendants failed to comply with this court-imposed deadline, serving their disclosures over three months later on March 17, 2015. (Dkt. 31).

On September 3, 2015, this Court denied Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of its August 7, 2014, Decision and Order. (Dkt. 32; see Dkt. 28). The Court also stated that the parties "should confer and submit a jointly proposed amended scheduling order" to Judge Payson if they believed additional discovery was necessary. (Dkt. 32 at 12). No such joint filing was ever submitted. Subsequently, during a video status conference held on May 12, 2016, Plaintiff indicated that he believed "additional discovery [wa]s required before the case c[ould] be scheduled for trial." (Dkt. 38; see Dkt. 37). As a result, the case was re-referred to Judge Payson to supervise ongoing discovery matters. (Dkt. 38).

Between June 2016 and September 2016, Plaintiff served interrogatories and a document request upon Defendants (Dkt. 42; Dkt. 45), and Defendants took Plaintiff’s deposition (see Dkt. 43). On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel Defendants to respond to his discovery demands and sought sanctions for their failure to comply with discovery rules. (Dkt. 46). In response to Plaintiff’s motion, Defendants’ counsel submitted a copy of Plaintiff’s deposition transcript and a copy of "a disciplinary hearing packet regarding a ‘9/5/2007’ incident." (See Dkt. 49). Beyond that, Defendants’ counsel simply stated that he had "sent discovery demands to [his] clients at their respective facilities and ... [was] awaiting responses," and he conceded that he had "overlooked" making an extension request to resolve outstanding discovery matters because of "various trial engagements, complex litigation, and late receipt of the plaintiff’s deposition transcript." (Id. at 2). On January 24, 2017, and February 21, 2017, Defendants filed their initial responses to Plaintiff’s interrogatories. (Dkt. 57; Dkt. 58).

On July 20, 2017, Judge Payson issued a Decision and Order granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff’s motion to compel and for sanctions. (Dkt. 59). Judge Payson noted that while "[D]efendants have provided some documents responsive to [Plaintiff]’s request in connection with their opposition to this motion, ... many still appear outstanding." (Id. at 4). At that point in time, Defendants had "not provided [any] formal written response to the requests." (Id. ). Judge Payson further noted that Defendants had responded

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to Plaintiff’s interrogatories "well after the deadline" had passed. (Id. at 5). Judge Payson ordered, among other things, for Defendants "to provide written responses and produce all responsive documents" by August 25, 2017, and for Plaintiff to serve any requests for admissions, or for Defendants to respond to those requests should they have already been served, by the same date. (Id. ). Otherwise, Defendants were to respond to Plaintiff’s requests for admissions within thirty days of service. (Id. ).

Judge Payson also sanctioned Defendants for "unjustifiably and inexplicably lax" efforts to comply with their discovery obligations. (See id. ). While Judge Payson denied Plaintiff’s requests to dismiss the action or preclude evidence, noting that Defendants’ discovery violations "have resulted from their counsel’s lack of appropriate diligence, not from any bad faith on his or their parts," she cautioned Defendants that "any further failure to comply with their discovery obligations may result in the imposition of serious sanctions against [D]efendants or [D]efendants’ counsel, including the striking of their answer." (Id at 8 (emphasis and footnote omitted)). Judge Payson also awarded Plaintiff his litigation costs "incurred as a result of [D]efendants’ delayed discovery responses and the need to file a motion to obtain them." (Id. at 9). Plaintiff subsequently filed a request for admissions on November 13, 2017 (Dkt. 70), and Defendants responded to Plaintiff’s request on December 15, 2017 (Dkt. 71).

II. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel and for Sanctions

On April 16, 2019, with leave of the Court, Plaintiff filed the instant motion. (Dkt. 84). Generally, Plaintiff contends that Defendants failed to respond to his document requests and argues that their interrogatory answers and responses to his requests for admissions are inadequate. Plaintiff further argues that Defendants failed to provide sworn answers to his interrogatories and his requests for admissions and failed to sign their discovery submissions as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (See id. at 6-7). Plaintiff also challenges a number of Defendants’ individual interrogatory responses as evasive, manipulated, and false. (See id. at 7-16).

Plaintiff contends that Defendants provided "boilerplate" and improper responses to his requests for admissions and have not properly asserted any applicable legal privilege against any admission so requested. (See id. at 17-25). In addition, Plaintiff contends that Defendants’ responsive admissions were filed after the applicable deadline. (Id. at 31). Plaintiff requests that the Court conclude that Defendants waived their objections to Plaintiff’s requests for admissions as a result of this untimely submission. (Id. at 31-32).[2] Furthermore, Plaintiff argues that Defendants ignored his request for documents and refused to produce any of the documents he requested. (See id. at 25-30).

Plaintiff also requests that the Court issue appropriate discovery sanctions. Specifically, Plaintiff asks the Court to strike Defendants’ Answer and to enter default judgment in his favor. (Id. at 33-37; see Dkt. 84-2 at 52-63 (Motion for Default Judgment)).3 In his reply papers, Plaintiff requests that monetary sanctions be awarded in his favor, and that Defendants be denied any additional opportunities to satisfy their discovery obligations. (See Dkt. 89 at 8, 13-14; Dkt. 90).

Despite Plaintiffs lengthy motion papers, Defendants counsel has filed a mere seven-paragraph declaration that does little to address each of Plaintiffs arguments. (Dkt. 88). Defendants counsel argues that the: (1) "[D]iscovery responses were provided pursuant to the Federal Rules...

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4 practice notes
  • Nicholson v. Gulino, 112420 NMDC, Civ. 19-446 KWR/KK
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
    • November 24, 2020
    ...therefore held that a party is not required to respond to requests for admission under oath. See, e.g., Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 458 (W.D.N.Y. 2019). Thus, the Court concludes that Defendant need not verify under oath his responses to Plaintiff's requests......
  • Medina v. Napoli, 013120 NYWDC, 07-CV-0497W(Sr)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Western District of New York
    • January 31, 2020
    ...failure to preserve property for another's use as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation. Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 466 (W.D.N.Y. 2019), quoting West v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 167 F.3d 776, 779 (2d Cir. 1999). When presented with......
  • Urena v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 060120 NYEDC, 16-CV-5556 (PKC) (LB)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Eastern District of New York
    • June 1, 2020
    ...spoliation [may also] include preclusion, monetary sanctions, or an adverse inference instruction, ” Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 467 (E.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting Liberman v. Fedex Ground Package Sys., Inc., No. 09-CV-2423 (RML), 2011 WL 145474, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. J......
  • Groskop v. S & T Bank, 082620 WYSC, S-19-0254
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 26, 2020
    ...an officer or an agent to answer, it clearly allows answers by an attorney."). [17] See also Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 457 (W.D.N.Y. 2019) ("The oath requirement applicable to interrogatories has legal significance. Courts have routinely refused ......
4 cases
  • Nicholson v. Gulino, 112420 NMDC, Civ. 19-446 KWR/KK
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
    • November 24, 2020
    ...therefore held that a party is not required to respond to requests for admission under oath. See, e.g., Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 458 (W.D.N.Y. 2019). Thus, the Court concludes that Defendant need not verify under oath his responses to Plaintiff's requests......
  • Medina v. Napoli, 013120 NYWDC, 07-CV-0497W(Sr)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Western District of New York
    • January 31, 2020
    ...failure to preserve property for another's use as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation. Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 466 (W.D.N.Y. 2019), quoting West v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 167 F.3d 776, 779 (2d Cir. 1999). When presented with......
  • Urena v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 060120 NYEDC, 16-CV-5556 (PKC) (LB)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Eastern District of New York
    • June 1, 2020
    ...spoliation [may also] include preclusion, monetary sanctions, or an adverse inference instruction, ” Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 467 (E.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting Liberman v. Fedex Ground Package Sys., Inc., No. 09-CV-2423 (RML), 2011 WL 145474, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. J......
  • Groskop v. S & T Bank, 082620 WYSC, S-19-0254
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 26, 2020
    ...an officer or an agent to answer, it clearly allows answers by an attorney."). [17] See also Richard v. Dignean, 332 F.R.D. 450, 457 (W.D.N.Y. 2019) ("The oath requirement applicable to interrogatories has legal significance. Courts have routinely refused ......