United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
December 16, 2005.
JML INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
PRETIUM PACKAGING, LLC, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge
Before me are several motions for sanctions filed by Defendant
Pretium Packaging, LLC (Pretium), for alleged failures on the
part of Plaintiff, JML Industries, Inc., (JML).
The alleged deficiencies involve responses to document requests
of Pretium which said things were "attached" or "enclosed" which
were not attached or enclosed. Counsel for the Plaintiff says
these designations were oversights, and when called to his
attention, were corrected. Pretium also notes that it requested
projections prepared by Mr. Riccetti since he referred to
projections for JML in his testimony before the Court in the
hearing on JML's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. While
Pretium argues there must be projections, JML's counsel
represents there are none in writing.*fn1 There are also
allegations that JML failed to produce a business plan because a
"business plan" for JML had been referred to in a December 15,
2003 e-mail. Again JML's counsel represented to Pretium and to
the Court that there was no business plan in existence.*fn2 The remainder of the allegations of misconduct regarding paper
discovery were resolved at a conference in my chambers on
November 18, 2005.
In determining whether to order sanctions in matters of
discovery, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has set forth the following factors to be considered by
the district court:
1) the extend of the party's personal responsibility;
2) a history of dilatoriness; 3) whether the
attorney's or party's conduct was willful or in bad
faith; 4) meritoriousness of the claim (i.e. whether
the allegations in the pleadings support recovery);
5) prejudice to the other party; and 6)
appropriateness of alternative sanctions.
Ali v. Sims, 788 F.2d 954
, 957 (3d Cir. 1986) (citing Poulis
v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863
(3d Cir. 1984);
Scarborough v. Eubanks, 747 F.2d 871
(3d Cir. 1984)).
I attribute the alleged deficiencies to a failure to be
thorough and complete in responding to the document requests. At
the same time, when the deficiencies were called to JML's
attention, counsel attempted to correct them. The fact that there
were no projections or business plans produced despite references
to them in testimony and e-mails respectively, while perceived by
Pretium as incredulous, the response is that there are none, and
that response will be under oath. Further, I do not find that JML
and/or its counsel acted in bad faith, and there is no prejudice
to Pretium, as the Court will accommodate the case management
schedule to allow for the time consumed by Pretium's additional
effort to complete paper discovery.
I should also note that I view sanctions as a last resort, and
I am generally reluctant to impose them. It is my view that
lawyers must navigate discovery with civility and with responses
which, so long as not privileged and relevant, are complete and
responsive. The Court is always available to aid in this process but only where
necessary, and not as the administrator of the process. Good
advocacy is not inconsistent with responsible discovery.
That said, for the foregoing reasons, the various motions for
sanctions will be denied.
An appropriate Order follows. ORDER
NOW, this 16th day of December, 2005, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED as follows:
1. Defendant's Motion for Sanctions Against Plaintiff
for Failing to Comply with the Court's Discovery
Orders (Doc. 41) is DENIED.
2. Defendant's Amended Motion for Sanctions Against
Plaintiff for Failing to Comply with the Court's
Discovery Orders (Doc. 42) is DENIED.
3. Defendant's Second Amended Motion for Sanctions
Against Plaintiff for Failing to Comply with the
Court's Discovery Orders (Doc. 58) is DENIED.
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