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Moore v. King Game, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 27, 2019

KENDRA MOORE, Plaintiff,
KING GAME, INC., a Florida for-profit Corporation d/b/a DR. BILLIARDS and MARC. O. FITZ-RITSON, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Kendra Moore's (“Plaintiff”) motion for sanctions against King Game, Inc. (“Defendant” or “King Game”). [D.E. 38]. Defendant failed to respond to Plaintiff's motion and the time to do so has now passed. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful consideration of the motion, relevant authorities, and for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion for sanctions is GRANTED.

         I. ANALYSIS

         On April 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint against King Game and Marc O. Fitz-Ritson (“Mr. Fitz-Ritson) for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). On August 26, 2019, Plaintiff served King Game with her first set of interrogatories and her first request for production. King Game never responded to Plaintiff's discovery requests. The parties then scheduled a discovery hearing before the undersigned on November 8, 2019 because of King Game's failure to respond. The Court directed King Game to respond to Plaintiff's discovery requests on or before November 15, 2019 and, as a sanction, that all objections to the discovery would be waived. The Court memorialized that ruling in a written order on November 18, 2019.[1] [D.E. 36]. Because King Game failed to respond by November 15, 2019, never contacted Plaintiff's counsel before missing the deadline, and failed to file an extension of time, Plaintiff requests sanctions under Rule 37.

         A district court has broad authority under Rule 37 to control discovery. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b) authorizes the court to impose such sanctions “as are just” against a party that violates an order compelling discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2). The Rule includes a list of possible sanctions:

(i) directing that the matters embraced in the order or other designated facts be taken as established for purposes of the action, as the prevailing party claims;
(ii) prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses, or from introducing designated matters in evidence;
(iii) striking pleadings in whole or in part;
(iv) staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed;
(v) dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part;
(vi) rendering a default judgment against the disobedient party; or (vii) treating as contempt of court the failure to obey any order except an order to submit to a physical or mental examination.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(A).

         Where, as here, a party seeks to enforce Rule 37's sanctions, “[t]he burden of establishing that a failure to disclose was substantially justified or harmless rests on the nondisclosing party.” Mitchell v. Ford Motor Co., 318 Fed.Appx. 821, 824 (11th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). In addressing this issue, reviewing courts consider the nondisclosing party's explanation for the failure, the importance of the information, and whether the opposing party is prejudiced by the discovery violation. See Lips v. City of Hollywood, 350 Fed.Appx. 328, 340 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Romero v. Drummond Co., 552 F.3d 1303, 1321 (11th Cir. 2008)). The Eleventh Circuit has observed that the first and third factors, together, can outweigh the second. See Bearint ex rel. Bearint v. Dorell Juvenile Grp., Inc., 389 F.3d 1339, 1353 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Regardless of the importance of [the] testimony, the reasons for the delay in the . . . disclosure and the consequent prejudice that [the] testimony would have caused [the nonmoving party] require us to affirm the district court's ruling.”).

         In the end, the Court has substantial discretion in deciding whether and how to impose sanctions under Rule 37. See Long v. East Coast Waffles, Inc., 762 Fed.Appx. 869, 871 (11th Cir. 2019); Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1366 (11th Cir. 1997). A district court is authorized, for example, to dismiss a case for failure to prosecute or failure to comply with a court order or the federal rules. SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); see alsoGratton v. Great Am. Commc'ns, 178 F.3d 1373, 1374 (11th Cir. 1999). Dismissal under Rule 41(b) is appropriate where “there is a ‘clear record of delay or willful contempt and a finding that lesser sanctions would not suffice.'” Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir. 1985) (quotation and citation omitted). On appeal, a court's resolution of a discovery violation will be upheld absent an abuse of that broad discretion. See Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide LLC, 940 F.3d 582, 593 (11th Cir. 2019). “An abuse of ...

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