That Will Cost You $50,000.


Trump v. Clinton is a purported RICO lawsuit filed by Trump attorneys against Hillary Clinton (who lost the 2016 Presidential Election) and a number of other defendants. It was dismissed with prejudice two months ago. One of the defendants, Charles Dolan, filed a motion for Rule 11 sanctions. The district court granted the motion with some stern words for Trump’s lawyers. Dolan was a mere volunteer for the Clinton campaign and did not have the roles that the complaint, and the amended complaint, alleged that he had.

The Court found that the allegations that Mr. Dolan was involved in a conspiracy to harm Donald Trump or his campaign were false and reckless. The court noted that the lawyers for Dolan sent a detailed warning letter to the attorneys for Trump explaining the various flaws with the Complaint. Instead of taking the letter seriously, the lawyers made a few cosmetic changes and filed an Amended Complaint. The court’s discussion of the Rule 11 warning letter is instructive:

The Warning Letter. 

On May 31, 2022, counsel for Mr. Dolan wrote the attorneys for Mr. Trump. They warned:

1.         That Mr. Dolan had no role in any conspiracy related to the Steele dossier.

2.         That Mr. Dolan was not a source for the allegations of sexual activity.

3.         That Mr. Dolan had not been in contact with any defendant other than Igor Danchenko, and that Mr. Dolan’s contacts with Mr. Danchenko involved business interests and help for a conference in Moscow.

4.         That Mr. Dolan had never been chairman of the DNC.

5.         That Ms. Clinton was on record through a spokesperson as stating she had no recollection of Mr. Dolan.

(DE 268-1).

The court then noted that the Amended Complaint did not make material changes to the allegations against Dolan. Dolan moved for sanctions. The explanation for the decision to grant sanctions is well-written.

Rule 11 sanctions are properly assessed (1) when a party files a pleading that has no reasonable factual basis; (2) when the party files a pleading that is based on a legal theory that has no reasonable chance of success and that cannot be advanced as a reasonable argument to change existing law; or (3) when the party files a pleading in bad faith for an improper purpose. Massengale v. Ray, 267 F.3d 1298, 1301 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing Worldwide Primates, Inc. v. McGreal, 87 F.3d 1252, 1254 (11th Cir. 1996)).

Here, all three are true. In Section A of this Order, I explain why the Amended Complaint lacked a reasonable factual basis as to the allegations against Defendant Dolan. Then, in Section B, I explain why Plaintiff’s legal arguments contained no reasonable chance of success. I have already done so, at great length and in great detail, in my Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. But I reiterate those fatal flaws here as relevant to the distinct Rule 11 inquiry. Finally, in Section C, I find that Plaintiff filed his pleadings for an improper purpose.

The order contains a lengthy discussion of the merits of the legal theories in the Complaint as additional bases for sanctions. The court ordered the lawyers for Trump to deposit $50,000 with the Court and pay Mr. Dolan’s legal fees in connection with the motion.

Comment: this is an example where the lawyer failed to conduct due diligence before making claims that were either false or baseless. Even after receiving a Rule 11 warning letter, the lawyers (at least according to the Court) failed to take any measures to correct the problems with the Complaint. Rule 11 requires due diligence and no lawyer should ever sign a pleading without doing that hard work. Don’t sign because the boss tells you to sign. Don’t sign to curry favor. Sign if the allegations are true and well-researched. In the end of the opinion, the Court indicated that other sanctions might be forthcoming.

Note: my apologies for the formatting issues that made the original post impossible to read.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

Six Years Of Frivolous Litigation Equals Rule 11 Sanctions


A Michigan district court found that a plaintiff who had spent six years challenging zoning regulations was liable for Rule 11 sanctions.

After conducting a de novo review of the R & R, the objections, and the pertinent portions of the record, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s objections are without merit and that the R & R should be adopted. As stated by the Magistrate Judge, there is “nothing reasonable about Plaintiff’s conduct in this matter” (ECF No. 53 at PageID.603). Over the past six years, Plaintiff has unsuccessfully challenged Marshall Township’s efforts to enforce zoning regulations in both federal and state court. The claims in the present case were not discernable. The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s conclusion that the “imposition of Rule 11 sanctions is both appropriate and necessary to deter Plaintiff and others from wasting this Court’s limited resources and subjecting future litigants to similar behavior” (id.). Plaintiff’s argument fails to demonstrate any factual or legal error in the Magistrate Judge’s analysis.

Plaintiff argues that his claims and pleadings were not frivolous in this case. He contends that the Court permitted him to “e-file” his pleadings, “proving that Plaintiff’s pleadings were not considered `frivolous’ at that time” (ECF No. 54 at PageID.607). He further argues that if the pleadings were frivolous, “why has [he] not been charged with perjury” (id. at PageID.607).

Cousino v. Township of Marshall, 21-cv-679 (W.D. Michigan 2022). The current case has been pending since 2021 so the “six years” the court is referring to must mean other litigation. I’m not sure that is a proper basis for awarding sanctions in the above-captioned case. The court does not mention a false allegation in its opinion.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

http://www.clintonlaw.net

Trump v. Clinton – A Fertile Ground For Sanctions Motions


The Southern District of Florida recently dismissed Trump v. Clinton 2:22-cv-14102 (Middlebrooks, J.) which alleged a smorgasbord of grievances against various defendants who plaintiff claimed had attempted to rid the 2016 Presidential Election against him. Defendant Charles Halliday, Jr. filed the first of an expected dozen or so Rule 11 motions against the lawyers for the former President. The motion alleges sloppy work by Trump’s lawyers.

“Defendant Charles Halliday Dolan, Jr has been dragged into this lawsuit via speculation, rumor and innuendo.Large and small matters are falsely and cavalierly presented in Plaintiff’s pleadings; any one of these false statements is grounds for sanction.

The original complaint falsely presented Mr. Dolan as a former Chairman of the DNC. Complaint, ¶96.Undersigned counsel sent a Rule 11 letter to Plaintiff’s counsel noting, among other things, that statement was false.See Exhibit A. The Amended Complaint now describes

Mr. Dolan as the former Chairman of a “national democratic political organization.” Amended Complaint, ¶96. Thatdoes not fix the problem, as Mr. Dolan was never the Chairman of any such organization. Mr. Dolan’s resume is available online and could have been easily checked.

The new, Amended Complaint further complicates its prior error by now identifying Mr. Dolan for the first timeas a citizen and resident of New York, Amended Complaint, ¶20. This is a new allegation that is not true at all, andagain could have been easily checked. Mr. Dolan lives and has lived for most of his adult life in Virginia. Mr. Dolan already submitted a declaration identifying himself as an Arlington, Virginia resident.Mr. Dolan is alleged to be the ultimate source of a rumor that Mr. Trump engaged in salacious sexual activity at a Moscow hotel.This is also not true, and there is no basis for this rumor….

There was no factual basis to allege that Mr. Dolan was ever Chairman of the DNC, or former Chairman of any national democratic political organization, and no basis to allege he has ever been a resident of New York. There apparently was not a scintilla of due diligence on the part of the plaintiff’s attorneys. These false statements alone merit sanction, especially since undersigned counsel warned Plaintiff’s counsel of a potential Rule 11 motion via letter. These false facts are indicative of a lack of reasonable diligence generally.”

Comment: I take no position on whether the motion has merit, but will keep readers updated on the results of this (and other expected sanctions motions) in this case.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

Failure to Answer Discovery Leads To Default Judgment


A district court in Florida has utilized Rule 37 to enter judgment in favor of an insurance company against a defendant accused of engaging in wrongful billing practices. Government Employees Insurance Co. v. DeJesus, No. 20-21558 (S.D. Florida 2022). The defendant’s refusal to appear for his deposition was the deciding factor in the grant of the Rule 37 sanctions motion. The court explained in part that:

“The Defendants initially agreed to appear for a deposition on October 14, 2021. However, on October 8, 2021, Defendants’ counsel, Christian Carrazana, Esq., informed Plaintiffs of his intent to file a motion to withdraw as counsel for Defendants. Plaintiffs indicated that they would consent, but informed Mr. Carrazana that they intended to proceed with the Defendants’ depositions on October 14, 2021, should the motion to withdraw not be decided by then. Mr. Carrazana did not move to withdraw until November 30, 2021, and the Defendants did not appear at their October 14, 2021, depositions. Thereafter, Plaintiffs requested a discovery hearing seeking Rule 37 sanctions and an order compelling Defendants to appear for their depositions. See [D.E. 164 and 165].

The Court held a discovery hearing on December 2, 2021, and entered an Order compelling Defendants to appear for depositions to be held on December 20, 2021. [D.E 186]. The Order also warned Defendants that additional violations of the Court’s directives could subject them more severe sanctions:

Defendants’ failure to comply with this Order may result in further sanctions under Rule 37(b) of the Federal Rules, which can include further monetary sanctions, fines, or even entry of default judgment against Defendants on all claims and for all damages sought in the pending complaint. Defendants’ failure to comply may also result in their being found in contempt of court, which finding may result in the entry of any Order necessary for the enforcement of the Court’s jurisdiction to coerce compliance.

Id. at ¶ 5. The Court also granted Mr. Carrazana’s motion to withdraw that same day, ordering Defendants to retain new counsel by December 16, 2021,[2] and explaining that “[f]ailure to retain substitute counsel for the corporate entity Defendant, or failure to file the notice of intention to defend the case on a pro se basis by the individual Defendant, may be deemed a waiver of the right to defend the action and result in entry of default judgment(s).” [D.E. 187].

Contrary to the Court’s Orders, Defendants never retained new counsel, and Mr. Collazo never informed the Court of his intention to proceed with his defense on a pro se basis. Further, as prescribed by the December 2, 2021, Order, Plaintiff’s’ counsel shared with Mr. Carranza the link to Defendants’ virtual depositions taking place on December 20, 2021, but Defendants did not appear, nor did they provide any justification to Plaintiff for their absence. [D.E. 195-1, ¶¶ 5-7].

Defendants’ willful and unjustified disregard for this Court’s Orders makes the sanction of default judgment appropriate here. Not only have Defendants failed to pursue their defense in this action, but they have also failed to comply with this Court’s instructions on repeated occasions and without any explanation.”

Sixth Circuit Affirms Sanctions Award Against Lawyers


In NPF Franchising, LLC v. Sy Dawgs, LLC 37 F.4th 369 (6th Cir. 2022), the Sixth Circuit affirmed a Rule 37 sanctions award against the lawyers for NPF Franchising. The fees were awarded against NPF and the individual lawyers because the lawyers failed to comply with discovery obligations in the case, a dispute between an franchisor and a franchisee. I have quoted from the relevant portions of the opinion below.

“This case began in February 2018 with NPF’s complaint against SY Dawgs for breach of their franchise agreement and non-competition and non-disclosure agreement. About a week later, NPF amended its complaint. After the district court denied NPF’s motion for a preliminary injunction, NPF amended the complaint for a second time. SY Dawgs then moved for attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses, pursuant to a contractual fee-shifting provision.[1] SY Dawgs argued that it was entitled to monetary compensation because NPF was the “unsuccessful party” on its claim for injunctive relief. The district court denied the motion without prejudice as premature.

374*374 Around this time, in August 2018, NPF failed to appear at a status conference. At that conference, the district court noted that despite SY Dawgs having issued multiple subpoenas and responded to NPF’s discovery requests, NPF had thus far refused to respond to SY Dawgs’s discovery requests, with the discovery deadline two months away. SY Dawgs again moved for costs and fees, this time over NPF’s non-attendance at the status conference. At the next status conference, on September 4, 2018, new counsel, the Buchalter Law Firm, appeared for NPF and vowed to produce all outstanding discovery. The district court granted motions to appear pro hac vice on behalf of NPF filed by Buchalter Law Firm attorneys Tracy Warren and Kathryn Fox around this time.

Later in September, SY Dawgs again moved to compel discovery and for sanctions. It stated that NPF had provided no interrogatory answers or documents in response to the requests that it served on June 20, 2018. SY Dawgs also noted that NPF refused to designate a representative for corporate representative depositions. The parties then had a status conference in early October, where NPF represented to the district court that it had turned over all the requested discovery. Relying on this representation, the district court denied SY Dawgs’s motion for costs and fees but also expressed willingness to revisit the issue later. The district court also granted SY Dawgs’s motion to compel discovery “inasmuch as [NPF]’s counsel has represented to Court and counsel that all requested information has been disclosed.”

SY Dawgs moved for discovery sanctions yet again on October 25, 2018. It stated that NPF had failed to appear for a properly noticed deposition or produce any documents related to a subpoena. SY Dawgs also accused NPF of misrepresenting to the district court that it had produced all documents, given that it had later produced several hundred more documents. The district court then granted a motion by NPF to extend discovery, held another status conference at which it noted that SY Dawgs’s motion for sanctions was fully briefed, and asked the parties to confer and prepare a list of documents still needed. Soon after, it extended discovery again, this time until March 1, 2019.

The new discovery deadline brought yet another motion from SY Dawgs to compel discovery, filed at the end of December. In addition to alleging that NPF had provided insufficient or incomplete responses to several of SY Dawgs’s requests, SY Dawgs argued that NPF had provided no documents responsive to the 45 other requests. That same day, Buchalter Law Firm attorneys Rick Waltman and J. Patrick Allen were admitted pro hac vice to represent NPF. And NPF made its own motion to compel discovery and sanction SY Dawgs. It alleged that SY Dawgs had failed to supplement its prior discovery responses and that doing so was a “willful and concerted effort to avoid the discovery process.” The district court denied both parties’ motions for discovery sanctions, but it left the sanctions issue open for revisitation after litigation concluded. And, yet again, the court granted SY Dawgs’s motion to compel discovery. It also instructed NPF to respond to the discovery requests within 14 days or, in the alternative, certify to the district court that there is nothing responsive left to produce.

The 14-day deadline passed with no such certification from NPF. In February 2019, SY Dawgs renewed its motion for sanctions. It stated that “NPF and its pro hac vice-admitted counsel” had a “pattern of ignoring discovery obligations” and “flagrantly” ignoring both court orders compelling discovery. Def.’s Renewed Mot. for Sanctions, R. 161, PageID 3606. The district 375*375 court granted the motion, ordering NPF to file an affidavit certifying that it had fully complied with the discovery request and also ordering NPF’s counsel to file a “similar certification of compliance by counsel.” The district court warned that “[f]ailure to comply with this Order will result in sanctions, up to and including dismissal of Plaintiff’s action.” And it warned yet again that “any monetary sanctions for Plaintiff’s repeated discovery intransigence will be addressed at the conclusion of this action.”

Despite that admonition, NPF never complied. So, SY Dawgs moved for the ultimate sanction—to dismiss the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. In the meantime, NPF moved for an interlocutory appeal of the sanctions order before our court. But NPF later voluntarily dismissed the appeal, and SY Dawgs renewed its motion to dismiss. NPF also sought a writ of mandamus from our circuit, stating that it would be “irreparably harmed” by “fully respond[ing] to all of Respondents’ discovery requests.” Pet. for Writ of Mandamus, R. 180, PageID 4054.[2] Yet no protective order regarding these documents was sought by NPF from the district court, nor did the franchisor ever produce a privilege log. We denied the petition for mandamus. Finally, NPF moved for default judgment, stating that SY Dawgs was misrepresenting its efforts to cooperate with the court’s orders and communicate.

After this last flurry of motions, NPF moved to voluntarily dismiss the case with prejudice in July 2019. The district court granted its request. But just before the dismissal, SY Dawgs moved again for attorneys’ fees and costs.”

The District Court sanctioned four individual lawyers, their law firm and the client.

Because Rule 37 does not allow sanctions against a law firm, that portion of the sanctions award was reversed. However, the sanctions were upheld against the individual lawyers.

The lawyers argued on appeal that they had not received sufficient notice of the sanctions and had not had an opportunity to respond. The Sixth Circuit rejected both arguments. The lawyers argued that their position was “substantially justified” but the court did not accept that argument either.

Comment: In my opinion, this is a case where emotions got the better of the lawyers for NPF. No matter how you may feel about a case or the position of the other side, you must comply with court orders to answer discovery requests. If you work for a firm that appears to be headed down this path, consult ethics counsel before engaging in this behavior. It is unfortunate that the junior lawyers did not engage counsel to defend themselves. Their defense might have been different than the defense offered by their more senior colleagues.

If you have a question about ethics or discovery obligations and you do not know what to do, please call us. We can often help resolve messy situations if we have time to give advice.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

The Clinton Law Firm, LLC

Chicago, Illinois 60602

312.357.1515

No Rule 37 Violation Where The Documents Were Produced


This is a case where the plaintiff allegedly deleted some text messages from his phone that were relevant to this case. The Defendant moved for Rule 37(e) sanctions, but the motion was denied because the messages were obtained from other sources.

First, sanctions under Rule 37(e) are available “only where ESI has been `lost’ and `cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery.'” Goldman v. Sol Goldman Invs. LLC, No. 20CV06727MKVSN, 2022 WL 2118199, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2022) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(e)). Thus even if a party himself has deleted messages, there can be no sanctions if the messages are provided from another source, because they are not “lost.” Id. at *4 (holding sanctions are not available where Plaintiff deleted an email that was subsequently produced from another source: “The email was not lost because [the recipient] produced it at his deposition. Therefore, spoliation sanctions may not be awarded for Plaintiff’s failure to produce the May 28 email, and the Court need not inquire into Plaintiff’s state of mind.”); CBF Industria de Gusa S/A v. AMCI Holdings, Inc., No. 13CV2581PKCJLC, 2021 WL 4190628, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 18, 2021) (noting that deleted messages that can be obtained from the other parties are not permanently lost or unrecoverable under Rule 37); Morgan Art Found. Ltd. v. McKenzie, No. 18CV4438ATBCM, 2020 WL 5836438, at *19 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2020) (holding Rule 37 sanctions were not available because deleted messages which still exist in another account “are not permanently lost, and in fact they have already been produced”).

That is precisely the circumstance here; although Mr. Rosario deleted the text message chains from his own phone, they have been obtained from other participants: Plaintiff’s counsel and John Torres. Because Defendants have not and cannot establish that any relevant messages are “lost” and “cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery,” their request for sanctions fails at the first step.[2] See Watkins v. New York City Transit Auth., No. 16 CIV. 4161 (LGS), 2018 WL 895624, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 13, 2018) (Defendants have “the burden of establishing the elements of a spoliation claim by a preponderance of the evidence.”).

Source: Rosario v. City of New York, S.D. N.Y. 18 civ 4023, July 27, 2022.

Plaintiff Ordered To Revise Damage Disclosures


A plaintiff was ordered to revise her damage disclosures in response to a Rule 37 motion. She avoided more serious sanctions. The Court re-opened discovery to allow the defendants to complete discovery regarding the updated disclosure.

Meza-Perez’s Rule 26 damages disclosures are woefully insufficient because they do not provide any analysis, explanation, formula, or computation. See ECF No. 246-2 at 9-10 (Meza-Perez’s damages disclosures). Instead, they provide only lump-sum amounts for her claimed elements of damages.

Rule 37 sanctions precluding Meza-Perez from presenting evidence of damages at trial would functionally dismiss some, if not all, of her claims. These inadequate disclosures are Meza-Perez’s fault and are willful. She prepared the disclosures and had several opportunities to supplement them but did not. Meza-Perez argued in her opposition that I should allow her to clarify her damages calculation as a lesser sanction, but she failed to include any such clarification, which she should have done. Meza-Perez cannot shift her Rule 26 disclosure obligations onto the defendants by arguing that they should have identified inadequacies in her disclosures.

Lesser sanctions are available and should be effective. I will allow Meza-Perez to submit to the defendants a supplemental damages disclosure by July 8, 2022. The defendants may conduct discovery regarding Meza-Perez’s damages for 30 days following her supplemental disclosure. This should limit the prejudice to the defendants caused by Meza-Perez’s inadequate disclosure, and still keep this case on track toward the pending trial date.

The case is Meza-Perez v. Sbarro, LLC, D. Nevada 2022, Case No. 2:19-cv-00373-APG-EJY.

Rule 37 Sanctions Granted For Failure to Produce


In Tucker v. BMW of North America, LLC, No. C20-5050 (Western District of Washington, Tacoma) the court granted plaintiff’s motion for rule 37 sanctions against BMW. The court held that BMW had unilaterally narrowed the scope of discovery and had not complied with orders to produce documents. This is a minor sanction as the Defendant lost no right to defend itself in the litigation.

“Rule 37(b) allows for sanctions for not obeying a discovery order. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2). It is well established in the Ninth Circuit that this rule “provides a wide range of sanctions for a party’s failure to comply with court discovery orders.” United States v. Sumitomo Marine & Fire Ins. Co., 617 F.2d 1365, 1369 (9th Cir. 1980). While Defendant did engage in some discovery, it unilaterally narrowed the scope of discovery and the Court’s order. Defendant failed to comply with the Court’s November 1 order, which has resulted in Plaintiff having to move to extend the time to complete discovery twice, Dkts. 71, 84, the instant motion for sanctions, Dkt. 86, and a stipulated extension of the trial date, Dkt. 94. Sanctions are therefore warranted, though not to the extent of Plaintiff’s request.

Defendant is hereby ORDERED to pay the fees and costs Plaintiff’s counsel incurred in bringing the motions for extension of time and this motion for contempt and sanctions. If necessary, Plaintiff shall submit a motion for such fees within 14 days of this order. Alternatively, and preferably, the parties shall notify the Court that the sanction has been paid.”

A Nasty Letter Isn’t A Sanctions Motion


Rule 11 has a safe harbor that allows the opposing party to withdraw an offending pleading within 21 days after he is served with the motion for sanctions. Many sanctions motions are denied because the party seeking sanctions writes a letter to the opponent, but does not actually serve a motion for sanctions. This court discussed this common problem and denied the motion for sanctions.

“Rule 11(b) provides that by presenting a pleading to a court, an attorney certifies that, after conducting a reasonable inquiry, evidentiary support exists for the factual allegations pled in the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(3). If a party believes that it has been served with a complaint for which no reasonable inquiry had been conducted, or for which no evidentiary support existed, then he may move for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11(c). Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1). The movant may not, however, file the motion for sanctions with the court unless the motion has been served on the non-moving party at least twenty-one (21) days prior to filing, and the non-moving party has not withdrawn or otherwise corrected the challenged writing within the twenty-one-day period. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2). Compliance with the “21-day safe harbor” rule is a condition precedent to sanctions. RMC Publ’ns, Inc. v. Doe, No. 3:07-cv-3170-JFA, 2008 WL 11472127, at *3 (D.S.C. Feb. 5, 2008) (citing Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng., Inc., 369 F.3d 385, 393 (4th Cir. 2004)).

There is no dispute that Defendant failed to serve the motion for sanctions and memorandum prior to filing it with the Court. Instead, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff’s counsel on December 15, 2021, discussing the purported flaws in Plaintiff’s claims and demanding that she dismiss her claims with prejudice or Defendant “intends to file . . . a Rule 11 motion for sanctions…”. (Doc. No. 10-6, pp. 1, 6). Defendant argues that this letter satisfied the Rule 11 the safe harbor requirements. The Court disagrees. The Fourth Circuit has stated:

The requirements of the rule are straightforward: The party seeking sanctions must serve the Rule 11 motion on the opposing party at least twenty-one days before filing the motion with the district court, and sanctions may be sought only if the challenged pleading is not withdrawn or corrected within twenty-one days after service of the motion.

Brickwood, 369 F.3d at 389 (emphasis added); see also Hamlin v. TD Bank, No. 1:13-CV-00200-MR-DSC, 2014 WL 3101942, at *3, n.2 (W.D.N.C. July 4, 2014) (“The motion for sanctions must be served on the offending party at least twenty-one days before filing and must describe in detail the alleged offending conduct. Therefore, counsel’s letter threatening to file a motion for Rule 11 sanctions in the event that the motion to dismiss was granted was not sufficient to trigger the safe harbor provision of Rule 11(c)(2).”).”

McFee v. Carolina Pad, LLC, 3:21-cv-633-GCM (W.D. North Carolina February 15, 2022).

So the procedure is simple: prepare a motion for sanctions and serve it on the other party and wait 21 days before filing it with the court.

Ed Clinton, Jr.

Failure To Serve Initial Disclosures Did Not Merit Rule 37 Sanctions


The federal rules of civil procedure require each party to make initial disclosures. In Doe v. Coomes, No. 21-cv-67 (N.D. Oklahoma January 18, 2022), the plaintiff failed to serve initial disclosures. The defendant moved for Rule 37 sanctions. The motion was denied because the failure to serve timely disclosures was “harmless.”

However, Rule 37 calls for use-exclusion or other sanctions only if the failure to disclose harmed the receiving party. Examples of a harmless violation of the initial disclosure duty include “the failure to list as a trial witness a person so listed by another party.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37, 1993 Advisory Committee Notes. As noted, Plaintiff has not identified individuals or documents other than those in Defendants’ disclosures. There has been no identified harm as contemplated under the rule.

Defendants argue that, nonetheless, the allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint are “inherently prejudicial to the reputation of both CareATC as a company and Jeff Coomes as an individual.” (Doc. 20 at 4). However, they offer little basis to find that any alleged reputational harm might have been spared, had Plaintiff submitted her initial disclosures earlier. Contrary to Defendants’ assertion that the allegations have been “allowed to sit stagnant,” the Court ruled on all motions to dismiss within a matter of weeks after the end of the period for briefing those motions. Id.; see also Doc. 18. The Court shortly thereafter entered a Scheduling Order, under which the time period for discovery remains open until January 24, 2022. (SeeDoc. 19). Finally, as noted, Plaintiff’s initial disclosures identify the same individuals and documents Defendants have already identified