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Motor Vehicle Law: The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut grants defendant’s motion to dismiss due to plaintiffs’ failure to comply with discovery

The plaintiffs filed this suit against the defendant in Connecticut Superior Court following a motor vehicle collision. The plaintiffs claimed that the collision was caused by the negligence of an employee of the defendant during the scope of such employment. The defendant then timely moved the case to this Court, the United Stated District Court, District of Connecticut, citing diversity jurisdiction among the parties. Before this Court is the defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Procedure 16 and 45, citing the plaintiffs’ repeated noncompliance with discovery requests and court orders.

On March 3, 2021, the defendant served the plaintiffs with the first set of interrogatories and request for production. The plaintiffs failed to return this first set in a timely fashion. The defendant agreed to a ten-day extension. Four days after the extension began, counsel for the plaintiffs emailed the defendant’s attorney, indicating that he would “forward discovery this week.” The plaintiffs failed to meet this deadline as well. The plaintiffs’ attorney attempted to offer only a portion of the requested information as he was waiting for responses from his client. Despite this offer, no additional responses arrived.

The following day, the plaintiffs’ attorney sent responses in the format used in Connecticut Superior Court, rather than the format supplied by the defendant. The defendant then filed a motion to compel. The judge granted the plaintiffs thirty days to comply with the order. The plaintiffs again failed to meet this deadline. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss and then the case was transferred to this Court. The plaintiff then filed a notice claiming compliance with the courts order regarding discovery. The defendant responded by filing this motion to dismiss.

The duration of the plaintiffs’ failures to respond to discovery is the first factor weighing heavily in favor of dismissal. As the Court explains, Local Rules of this district provide that if deadlines established by the Court pursuant to Rule 16 are not met, the “Clerk shall give notice of proposed dismissal to counsel of record and self-represented parties.” It further states that “[i]f such notice has been given and no action has been taken in the action in the meantime and no satisfactory explanation is submitted … within twenty-one days thereafter, the Clerk shall enter an order of dismissal.” Although the plaintiffs filed a notice of compliance on February 28, 2022, the defendant points out that the plaintiffs failed to provide full and complete responses to many of their interrogatories.

To date, the plaintiffs have failed to respond to the interrogatories and document requests, which were sent to the plaintiffs as far back as March 3, 2021. The second factor addressed by the Court weighing in favor of dismissal is that the plaintiffs were warned of dismissal. The plaintiffs were explicitly warned that their noncompliance with discovery would “result in dismissal (with prejudice)” of their claim in the lower court order which made certain that each party understood the plaintiffs were to respond “fully and completely” to the defendant’s discovery.

The third factor is that the delay in discovery is likely to prejudice the defendant. The Court explains that the time and effort spent in contacting the plaintiff’s counsel and the time that has lapsed since the suit began in state court both suggest that the defendant has suffered from prejudice caused by the plaintiffs. “Memories fade, witnesses disappear, and time is costly.” The court states that dismissal is warranted under the fourth factor, that is, that the record makes clear that the plaintiffs have had a “fair chance to be heard” and further delay impedes on the Court’s efficiency. In other words, the Court’s efficiency outweighs due process, in this case. Lastly, the Court discusses that the motion to remand the case to state court is dismissed as moot. For these reasons, the Court grants the defendants’ renewed motion to dismiss with prejudice. Paulidor v. Hemphill’s Horses, Feed, & Saddlery, Inc., No. 3:20-CV-785 (OAW), 2023 WL 4931921 (D. Conn. Aug. 2, 2023).