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Defendants’ Failure To Make Showing On Motion To Compel Abrogates Sanctions Against Plaintiff For Refusing to Meet and Confer

Posted on September 25th, 2017

Follow ILS for future case updatesIn Carter v. H2R Restaurant Holdings, (N.D. Texas August 29, 2017) the parties’ viewpoints on discovery were so disparate that Plaintiff stated a meet-and-confer session would be completely pointless.  Defendants filed a Motion to Compel, including a sanctions request for Plaintiff’s failure to meet and confer.  The Court was tasked with adjudicating under what circumstances is it appropriate to order sanctions for a party’s refusal to comply with federal statutory meet and confer requirements.

Defendants H2R Restaurant Holdings, LLC, John Dyess, and Chris Short (“H2R Defendants”) filed a Motion to Compel without first filing a Joint Status Report, in violation of the Court’s Standing Order on Non-Dispositive Motions. They contend that they did so because Plaintiff Samantha Carter (“Plaintiff”) refused to meet and confer.

The Court subsequently ordered the Plaintiff and the H2R Defendants to meet and confer and then file a Joint Status Report on the H2R Defendants’ Motion to Compel by Friday August 18, 2017.  Shortly after issuance of the Order, Plaintiff filed a Response disputing that she refused to meet and confer with the H2R Defendants. However, in the Response, she also maintained her prior position regarding responses to the discovery requests, and that a meet-and-confer session would be pointless as a result.

On August 18, 2017, the H2R Defendants filed a purported “Joint” Status Report. In the Report, they stated that their counsel  attempted to communicate with Plaintiff in order to comply with the Court’s Order but that Plaintiff failed to respond.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a) governs motions to compel discovery responses. Rule 37(a)(3)(B) provides that a party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling production against another party when the latter has failed to produce documents requested under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 or to answer an interrogatory under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33. The party resisting discovery must show specifically how each discovery request is not relevant or otherwise objectionable.

The Court reviewed the statutory scheme that the party seeking discovery, to prevail on a motion to compel or resist a motion for protective order, needs to make its own showing of many or all of the proportionality factors, including the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, in opposition to the resisting party’s showing.

Here, however, the Court found that this statutory plan could not be carried through, since the H2R Defendants did not identify in their moving papers the specific requests at issue. It also observed that the Defendants failed to explain how Plaintiff’s responses were insufficient. The Court further determined that the Plaintiff’s failure to satisfy meet and confer requirements did not mandate the Court rule against her when the Defendants  first failed to make the basic showing of the statutory factors required on a motion to compel.   The Court denied H2R Defendants’ motion to compel, and ordered that the parties bear their own expenses and attorneys’ fees in connection with the motion.

 

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