Court Affirms Holding Defendants In Contempt of Court for Failure to Produce ESI
In Reed v. Cassidy, No. 49A05-1405-PL-220 (Ct. App. Ind. Mar. 9, 2015), the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed a trial court’s order sanctioning and holding in contempt of court Appellants-Defendants who failed comply with Plaintiffs’ discovery requests.
Plaintiffs had initially served Defendants with requests for electronic discovery, including a request for email communications. Defendants produced 1,900 pages of paper documents, but no email communications. Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel, and the trial court ordered Defendants to produce responsive email communications and sanctioned Plaintiffs $10,000 for their failure to comply with discovery. Defendants refused to comply with the court’s order. Plaintiffs moved to compel again, and the court again ordered Defendants to comply, this time sanctioning them $30,000 for their “ongoing failure to cooperate with discovery.”
Defendants refused to pay the sanctions, and filed a motion to reconsider the ruling and an interlocutory appeal. After losing their motions and still refusing to pay the sanction, the court held Defendants in contempt of court and ordered Defendants to pay $10,000 within 30 days, or its primary officer, also a named defendant, would have a bench warrant issued for his arrest until Defendants paid the fine. The court also granted the motion to enforce the $30,000 fine and ordered Defendants jointly and severally liable for it, relying on (i) Indiana Trial Rule 37(B)(2)(c), which states that courts may provide for sanctions for failure to comply with discovery; and (ii) Indiana Code § 23-1-35-1, which states that corporate officers can be held liable for a willful or reckless breach of duties, even in the context of a discovery violation.
Defendants appealed the contempt charge and the court’s other related rulings. The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order.