Plaintiffs sued Defendant, an automobile manufacturer, in connection with alleged defects in their automobile that led to their injuries. The parties engaged in a protracted period of disputed discovery. The resolution of the parties’ discovery disputes led to a district order granting sanctions that: struck Defendant’s answer and affirmative defenses, entered a default judgment against Defendant, awarded Plaintiffs expenses and attorneys fees, and vacated a previously entered a protective order for Defendant.
Federal procedural rules are designed to minimize the need for judicial intervention, but the court should provide rulings on objections to discovery, consider and rule on objections on a motion to compel discovery, and provide a meaningful explanation of its rulings.
Plaintiffs were injured in an automobile accident. They sued Defendant, an automobile manufacturer, asserting claims for product liability, negligence and fraud, in connection with alleged defects in their automobile that led to their injuries. The parties engaged in discovery for a period of over two years. The Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery, for which the court held a hearing. The resolution of the discovery disputes included a district order granting sanctions in Plaintiffs’ favor. The sanctions award struck Defendant’s answer and affirmative defenses, directed the clerk to enter a default judgment, awarded Plaintiffs expenses and attorneys fees, and vacated a previously entered protective order. The Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s opinion and orders related to discovery in this case, specifically the orders compelling discovery and ordering sanctions.
Did the district court abuse its discretion in granting Plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery and awarding sanctions?
Yes. The Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s order compelling discovery and granting sanctions, and remanded the case for reassignment to a different district judge for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.