Legal Definition of Discovery Sanctions
Punishment for failure to obey discovery rules.7 min read
Discovery Sanctions: Punishment for failure to obey discovery rules.
(a) Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "Rule 37. Failure to Make Disclosure or Cooperate in Discovery: Sanctions . . .(4) Expenses and Sanctions.
If the motion is granted or if the disclosure or requested discovery is provided after the motion was filed, the court shall, after affording an opportunity to be heard, require the party or deponent whose conduct necessitated the motion or the party or attorney advising such conduct or both of them to pay to the moving party the reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including attorney's fees, unless the court finds that the motion was filed without the movant's first making a good faith effort to obtain the disclosure or discovery without court action, or that the opposing party's nondisclosure, response, or objection was substantially justified, or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.
(b) Failure To Comply With Order
1. Sanctions by Court in District Where Deposition Is Taken. If a deponent fails to be sworn or to answer a question after being directed to do so by the court in the district in which the deposition is being taken, the failure may be considered a contempt of that court.
2. Sanctions by Court in Which Action Is Pending. If a party or an officer, director, or managing agent of a party or a person designated under Rule 30(b)(6) or 31(a) to testify on behalf of a party fails to obey an order to provide or permit discovery, including an order made under subdivision (a) of this rule or Rule 35, or if a party fails to obey an order entered under Rule 26(f), the court in which the action is pending may make such orders in regard to the failure as are just, and among others the following:
- An order that the matters regarding which the order was made or any other designated facts shall be taken to be established for the purposes of the action in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order;
- An order refusing to allow the disobedient party to support or oppose designated claims or defenses, or prohibiting that party from introducing designated matters in evidence;
- An order striking out pleadings or parts thereof, or staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed, or dismissing the action or proceeding or any part thereof, or rendering a judgment by default against the disobedient party;
- In lieu of any of the foregoing orders or in addition thereto, an order treating as a contempt of court the failure to obey any orders except an order to submit to a physical or mental examination;
- Where a party has failed to comply with an order under Rule 35(a) requiring that party to produce another for examination, such orders as are listed in paragraphs (A), (B), and (C) of this subdivision, unless the party failing to comply shows that that party is unable to produce such person for examination.
In lieu of any of the foregoing orders or in addition thereto, the court shall require the party failing to obey the order or the attorney advising that party or both to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure, unless the court finds that the failure was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.
(c) Failure to Disclose; False or Misleading Disclosure; Refusal to Admit
1. A party that without substantial justification fails to disclose information required by Rule 26(a) or 26(e)(1) shall not, unless such failure is harmless, be permitted to use as evidence at trial, at a hearing, or on a motion any witness or information not so disclosed. In addition to or in lieu of this sanction, the court, on motion and after affording an opportunity to be heard, may impose other appropriate sanctions. In addition to requiring payment of reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure, these sanctions may include any of the actions authorized under subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of subdivision (b)(2) of this rule and may include informing the jury of the failure to make the disclosure.
2. If a party fails to admit the genuineness of any document or the truth of any matter as requested under Rule 36, and if the party requesting the admissions thereafter proves the genuineness of the document or the truth of the matter, the requesting party may apply to the court for an order requiring the other party to pay the reasonable expenses incurred in making that proof, including reasonable attorney's fees. The court shall make the order unless it finds that:
- The request was held objectionable pursuant to Rule 36(a)
- The admission sought was of no substantial importance
- The party failing to admit had reasonable ground to believe that the party might prevail on the matter
- There was other good reason for the failure to admit
(d) Failure of Party To Attend at Own Deposition or Serve Answers to Interrogatories or Respond to Request for Inspection
If a party or an officer, director, or managing agent of a party or a person designated under Rule 30(b)(6) or 31(a) to testify on behalf of a party fails:
- To appear before the officer who is to take the deposition, after being served with a proper notice
- To serve answers or objections to interrogatories submitted under Rule 33, after proper service of the interrogatories
- To serve a written response to a request for inspection submitted under Rule 34, after proper service of the request, the court in which the action is pending on motion may make such orders in regard to the failure as are just, and among others it may take any action authorized under subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of subdivision (b)(2) of this rule. Any motion specifying a failure under clause (2) or (3) of this subdivision shall include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the party failing to answer or respond in an effort to obtain such answer or response without court action. In lieu of any order or in addition thereto, the court shall require the party failing to act or the attorney advising that party or both to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure unless the court finds that the failure was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.
(e) Failure To Participate in the Framing of a Discovery Plan
If a party or a party's attorney fails to participate in good faith in the development and submission of a proposed discovery plan as required by Rule 26(f), the court may, after opportunity for hearing, require such party or attorney to pay to any other party the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure.This court has squarely rejected the notion that a failure to comply with the rules of discovery is purged by belated compliance. Henry, 983 F.2d at 947; see also North Am. Watch Corp., 786 F.2d at 1451 (holding "[l]ast-minute tender of documents does not cure the prejudice to opponents nor does it restore to other litigants on a crowded docket the opportunity to use the courts."); G-K Properties v. Redevelopment Agency of San Jose, 577 F.2d 645, 647-48 (9th Cir. 1978) (holding "last minute tender" of relevant documents does not cure effects of discovery misconduct)."
It is appropriate to presume that where documents relevant to the merits of the litigation have been concealed the deception casts doubt on the concealing party's case. See, e.g., Phoceene Sous-Marine, S.A., 682 F.2d at 806.. Thus, from deception regarding the documents "one may reasonably infer" that deceiver's "case is lacking in merit." Phoceene Sous-Marine, S.A., 682 F.2d at 806 (citing Hammond Packing Co. v. Arkansas, 212 U.S. 322, 349-54 (1909)).
See Jones, 921 F.2d at 879 ("Failure to disclose or produce materials requested in discovery can constitute 'misconduct' within the purview of [Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3)] . . . .") (quoting Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 862 F.2d 910, 923 (1st Cir. 1988)).
Rule 37(b)(2)(C) provides the sanction of dismissal. The 9th circuit has strictly construed the language of Rule 37(d). See, e.g., Pennwalt Corp. v. Durand-Wayland, Inc., 708 F.2d 492, 494 n.4 (9th Cir. 1983) (the rule does not apply to non-parties "because it addresses only a party's failure to appear . . . .").
Attending a deposition but refusing to testify is not a "failure to appear" for the purposes of Rule 37(d). Accordingly, the proper remedy is a court order to testify under Rule 37(a), and not dismissal under Rule 37(b)(2)(C). Four other circuit courts have explicitly adopted this interpretation of Rule 37(d). R.W. Int'l Corp. v. Welch Foods, Inc., 937 F.2d 11, 15 n.2 (1st Cir. 1991) ("'failure to appear' for a deposition is strictly construed and Rule 37(d) sanctions apply only when a deponent literally fails to show up for a deposition session") (quotations and citations omitted); SEC v. Research Automation Corp., 521 F.2d 585, 589 (2nd Cir. 1975) ("Where a defendant does in fact appear physically for the taking of his deposition but refuses to cooperate by being sworn in and by testifying, the proper procedure is first to obtain an order from the court . . . ."); Stevens v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 710 F.2d 1224, 1228 (7th Cir. 1983) (quoting Research Automation); Aziz v. Wright, 34 F.3d 587, 589 (8th Cir. 1994) ("refusal to answer questions or participate [at a deposition] does not constitute a 'failure to appear'"), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 752 (1995).