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.”

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