United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
DONALD E. CLARK; and STACY L. CLARK, Plaintiffs,
ROCKHILL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
DALTON Jr. United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Rockhill Insurance Company's
objection to United States Magistrate Judge Leslie R. Hoffma
n's July 2 5, 2019 order (Doc. 9 0 (“
Order ”)). (Doc. 95
responded. (Doc. 107.) On review, the Objection is due to
moved to compel better responses to its discovery requests
(Doc. 63) and for sanctions against Defendant (Doc. 67).
Defendant responded (Docs. 71, 73) and Plaintiffs replied
(Docs. 77, 79). U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman held a hearing
on the motions (Doc. 88), which was followed by the Order
(Doc. 90). U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman found that Defendant
had eventually produced most of the requested discovery, but
only after Plaintiffs' motion to compel and up to the day
before the hearing. (Doc. 90, p. 2; see also Doc.
88.) For this delay and the impact on Plaintiffs' ability
to conduct depositions, Defendant was ordered to pay $1,
500.00 in attorney's fees caused by having to bring the
motion to compel. (Doc. 90, p. 3; see also Doc. 88.)
As to the motion for sanctions, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffma
n found that Defendant's conduct warranted the following:
an opportunity for Plaintiffs to re-take two depositions and
for attorney's fees incurred by the missed depositions
and the filing of a motion for sanctions. (Doc. 90, pp. 3-4.)
Plaintiffs then filed documents in support of their
attorney's fees. (Doc. 91.) Defendant was given an
opportunity to respond (Doc. 92) but didn't and instead
objected to the Order (Doc. 95). With Plaintiff's
response (Doc. 107), the matter is ripe.
may seek review of a magistrate judge's ruling on a
non-dispositive matter by serving and filing objections
within fourteen days after being served with a copy.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). A non-dispositive matter does not dispose
of any party's claim or defense. Smith v. Sch. Bd. of
Orange Cty., 487 F.3d 1361, 1365 (11th Cir.2007). If a
proper objection is made, “[t]he district judge in the
case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside
any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is
contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); see Howard v.
Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 769 F.Supp.2d 1366,
1372 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (noting that under Rule 72(a),
“in order to prevail, [the party who makes the
objection] must establish that the order is clearly erroneous
or contrary to law.”). A finding is clearly erroneous
“when although there is evidence [in the record] to
support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum
Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, (1948). A finding is considered
contrary to law if it does not apply or misapplies the
relevant statutes, case la w, or rules of procedure.
Malibu Media, LLC v . Doe, 923 F.Supp.2d 1339, 1347
(M.D. Fla. 2013) (citing Botta v. Barnhart, 475
F.Supp.2d 174, 185 (E.D.N.Y. 2007)).
objects to the Order for the following reasons: (1) sanctions
are inappropriate since Plaintiffs incurred costs knowing the
depositions wouldn't take place; (2) Plaintiffs should
have been required to demonstrate reasonable fees under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5)(A); (3) the Court
should reconsider granting the motion for sanctions; and (4)
Plaintiffs didn't proffer support for the amount awarded
as sanctions for the motion to compel. (Doc. 95.) Defendant
doth protest too much.
Motion to Compel
argues U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman erred in awarding
Plaintiffs $1, 500.00 in attorney's fees and costs in
bringing the motion to compel because Plaintiffs did not
produce records in support of this fee amount. (Doc. 95, pp.
10-11.) U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman made it clear at the
hearing that given the quickly approaching deadlines in the
case, she was not inclined to require extensive briefing on
the fees. (See Doc. 88.) Instead, she awarded $1,
500.00 in fees and ordered Plaintiffs to later show support,
which they did. (Doc. 91.) She gave Defendant an opportunity
to object, which it didn't. (See Doc. 92.) Now,
Defendant seeks to take advantage of her efficiency by
objecting to the Order and alleging that the amount is
unsupported, despite all evidence and opportunity to the
contrary. (See Doc. 95, pp. 10-11.) This conduct
(along with the record in this case) does not help to dispel
suspicions that Defendant is engaged in delay tactics.
(See Doc. 88.) U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman did not
have the opportunity to address Defendant's objection to
the reasonableness of the fees and the Court need not
consider new arguments that weren't raised before the
magistrate judge. See Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d
1287, 1292 (11th Cir. 2009) (noting that district courts have
discretion to consider newly raised arguments because
“to require a district court to consider evidence not
previously presented to the magistrate judge would . . . not
help to relieve the workload of the district court. System
efficiencies would be frustrated . . . .” (quoting
United States v. Howell, 231 F.3d 615, 622 (9th Cir.
2000))). Defendant's argument is unavailing.
Motion for Sanctions
to its arguments for attorney's fees for the motion to
compel, Defendant again argues that Plaintiffs should have
been required to show their reasonable fees for the motion
for sanctions, and again the Court points to Plaintiffs'
filing of these documents and Defendants' failure to
object. (See Doc. 95, pp. 8-9; Docs. 91, 92.)
Defendant also claims sanctions are inappropriate here
because Plaintiffs knew the depositions would not occur, so
any costs associated with their re-scheduling shouldn't
be borne by Defendant. (Doc. 95, pp. 6-8.) What Defendant
fails to mention is that these depositions were ordered by
the Court to take place on a specific date. (See
Doc. 57, pp. 4-5.) As U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman explained
at the hearing, these dates were mandatory. (See
Doc. 88.) Yet in direct contradiction to the Court's
order, Defendant unilaterally moved the depositions. (See
id.) Despite the defiance of the Court's order,
Defendant says it shouldn't have to pay. In support,
Defendant cites three cases that are inapposite. (Doc. 95,
pp. 6-7.) In all the cases, the court declined to award
monetary sanctions where the parties were unable to come to
agreement on scheduling depositions. See Iguana, LLC v.
Lanham, No. 7:08-CV-9 (CDL), 2011 WL 5154062 (M.D. Ga.
Oct. 28, 2011); Chavez v. Arancedo, No. 17-2 00 03
-C iv-TORRES, 2017 WL 3025841 (S.D. Fla. July 17, 2017);
Karakis v. Foreva Jens Inc., No. 08-61470-CIV, 2009
WL 113456 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 19, 2009). But unlike here, none of
the cases had a court-ordered schedule for depositions.
See Id. The gall of Defendant in this case is
impressive. Not only did Defendant disobey an unequivocal
court order, but it seeks to place the blame on Plaintiffs
for costs accumulated in seeking to comply with the order.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Hoffman was well within her discretion
to impose sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
37(b)(2)(C) for failure to comply with a court order. The
Defendant is fortunate the sanctions weren't more severe.
The Order stands and the Objection is overruled.
it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendant
Rockhill Insurance Company's Motion for Rehearing and/or
Reconsideration of Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for
Sanctions and Motion for Order to Show Cause and
Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Better Response to Discovery
Requests and Motion to Overrule Defendant's ...