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Granton v. Johnson

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

December 10, 2014

JANICE GRANTON, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD JOHNSON, JR., and JOANNA G. JOHNSON, Defendants.

Submitted: November 17, 2014

Upon Consideration of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Janice Grafton, Pro se.

David L. Baumberger, Esquire, Law Offices of Chrissinger & Baumberger, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendants.

ORDER

Robert B. Young J.

SUMMARY

The Court is presented with Donald Johnson, Jr.'s and Joanna G. Johnson's ("Defendants") Motion to Dismiss for want of prosecution. Defendants' motion arises out of Janice Granton's ("Plaintiff") failure to comply with this Court's August 7, 2014 Order. On that same date, Plaintiff's counsel voluntarily withdrew from representation. The Court's Order required Plaintiff to indicate whether she would be retaining replacement counsel or whether she would be proceeding pro se. Defendant's motion, at this point, is premature. The degree of Plaintiff's indifference to the litigation, and the delay she has caused, is not so great as to warrant immediate termination of the litigation. At the moment, there has been only one instance of neglect on Plaintiff's part. Regarding in particular pro se litigants, efforts affording the opportunity to remedy such parties' failures to litigate are to be provided before dismissal. Thus, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is DENIED at this juncture.

FACTS AND PROCEDURES

Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants on November 6, 2013. By her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges she was attacked by the Defendants' dog on November 7, 2011, while walking in front of their house in Dover, Delaware. Plaintiff was initially represented by the firm of Young & Malmberg, P.A. Her counsel withdrew from representation on August 7, 2014. On this date, this Court issued an Order providing Plaintiff until September 12, 2014, to declare whether she was hiring new counsel or proceeding pro se. Plaintiff did not comply with this Order.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

____Pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 41, it is "within the sound discretion of the Court" to dismiss an action for "want of prosecution."[1] This authority draws from the Court's "inherent power to manage its own affairs and to achieve orderly and expeditious disposition of its business."[2] "The purpose is to dispose of cases when necessary, not to allow parties to maintain a faint spark of life in their litigation."[3] In considering such motions to dismiss, the Court must balance the dual policy considerations of "giving litigants a day in Court" and the interests of judicial economy.[4] Where delay is caused by "gross neglect and lack of attention, " dismissal is appropriate.[5] By contrast, where the delay is unavoidable, "the parties should not be made to pay for circumstances beyond their control."[6]

DISCUSSION[7]

Not more than a week ago, this Court issued an opinion involving similarly situated parties.[8] Essentially the same reasoning applies in this case.

The Delaware Supreme Court has unequivocally recognized the right of trial courts to dismiss actions for want of prosecution under their "inherent power to manage [their] own affairs and to achieve orderly and expeditious disposition of [their] business."[9] The type of behavior calling for dismissal has been described as "gross neglect and lack of attention."[10] However, the Supreme Court qualified this authority in matters involving pro se disputants. Trial courts are to ...


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