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Aranga v. Advanced Student Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 30, 2019

DEBORAH J. ARANGA, Plaintiff,
v.
ADVANCED STUDENT TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

          Deborah J. Aranga, Wilmington, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Paula C. Witherow, Esquire, Cooch and Taylor, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK U.S. DISTRICT-JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Deborah J. Aranga ("Plaintiff) commenced this action on January 5, 2017, alleging employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. (D.I. 2) She proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4) Defendant Advanced Student Transportation, Inc. ("Defendant") moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 for failure to comply with a discovery order, Plaintiffs failure to attend her deposition, and for failure to prosecute. (D.I. 29) Defendant also moves for summary judgment. (D.I. 30) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss and will deny as moot the motion for summary judgment.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On March 20, 2018, the Court entered a scheduling order setting a discover}' deadline of September 21, 2018, and a dispositive motion deadline of October 22, 2018. (D.I. 18) On July 26, 2018, Defendant served written discovery on Plaintiff. (D.I. 20) On September 13, 2018, Defendant filed a notice to take Plaintiffs deposition on September 20, 2018. (D.I. 21) On the same date, Defendant filed a motion to compel answers to interrogatories and a request for production of documents and a motion to modify the scheduling order. (D.I. 22, 23) Plaintiff responded to the requests for production of documents while the motion was pending. (D.I. 24) Plaintiff did not appear for her deposition on September 20, 2018. (D.I. 29-1 at 8-9)

         On October 17, 2017, the Court granted Defendant's motion to compel and gave Plaintiff until on or before November 16, 2018 to respond to Defendant's discovery requests. (D.I. 25) The Court also modified the scheduling and discovery order, setting a new discovery deadline of December 17, 2018 and a dispositive motion deadline of January 15, 2019. (D.I. 27) Defendant rescheduled Plaintiffs deposition to take place on November 28, 2018. (D.I. 28) The notice was filed on November 15, 2018. (Id.) On that same day, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff informing her that it was important she attend her deposition and asking her to contact counsel should she have any questions. (D.I. 29-1 at 23) On November 19, 2018, another letter was sent to Plaintiff advising that, to date, Defendant had not received Plaintiffs answers to interrogatories within the timeframe ordered by the Court. (Id. at 27)

         Plaintiff did not appear at the rescheduled deposition on November 18, 2018. (Id. at 34) Nor did Plaintiff contact defense counsel with an explanation why she could not attend or request the deposition be rescheduled. (Id. at 35) On December 5, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 for failure to comply with a discovery order, Plaintiffs failure to attend her deposition, and for failure to prosecute her case. (D.I. 29) Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion.

         On January 9, 2019, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff has not produced sufficient evidence demonstrating that she has a disability within the meaning of Title V of the ADA. (D.I. 30, 31) Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment and states that when she was hired she filled out a "self identification disclosure" and answered that she was permanently disabled and receiving social security disability. (D.I. 32)

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Federal Rule Civil Procedure 37(b)(2) provides for sanctions once a court has ordered a party to answer discovery and the party fails to comply with the order. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2). Rule 37(d) provides for sanctions when a party fails to attend her own deposition, serve answers to interrogatories, or respond to a request for inspection. Dismissal of an action pursuant to the Rules lies within the discretion of the trial court. See Curtis T. Bedwell and Sons, Inc. v. International Fidelity Ins. Co., 843 F.2d 683, 691 (3d Or. 1988).

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b), a court may dismiss an action "[f]or failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules] or any order of court." Although dismissal is an extreme sanction that should only be used in limited circumstances, dismissal is appropriate if a party fails to prosecute the action. See Harris v. City of Philadelphia, 47 F.3d 1311, 1330 (3d Cir. 1995). Dismissal "must be a sanction of last, nor first resort." Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 869 (3d Cir. 1984).

         Courts typically assess the following factors in determining whether dismissal is warranted: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of other available sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense. See Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868; see also Hildebrand v. Allegheny Cty.,923 F.3d 128 (3d Cir. 2019); Em ...


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