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Jiri Pik v. the University of Pennsylvania

July 29, 2011

JIRI PIK
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

The University of Pennsylvania has moved for sanctions of dismissal of this action, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b). In view of the plaintiff's failure to participate in any component of the discovery process, as well as his repeated disregard of Court orders over the course of several months, the Court concludes that the plaintiff's conduct warrants sanctions of dismissal with prejudice.

I. Background

Jiri Pik, who is living in Germany and proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in this Court on November 26, 2008. In his complaint, the plaintiff asserted five counts against the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn"), arising out of his brief time as a graduate student at Penn during the 2003-2004 academic year. While the plaintiff was a student at Penn, he had a conflict with a professor in the Economics Department, which prompted the plaintiff to file a grade appeal and multiple grievances with Penn. The plaintiff was subsequently referred to Penn's Counseling and Psychological Service for an evaluation, and took a medical leave of absence. The plaintiff alleged that Penn ultimately denied his return from medical leave by imposing unreasonable conditions. The plaintiff also alleged that Penn provided false and damaging references to his subsequent employers, which led to his termination.

Penn filed a motion to dismiss on March 24, 2009. After the motion was filed, the plaintiff was hospitalized for several months,*fn1 and at his request this case was placed in suspense until August 17, 2009. On October 7, 2010, the Court granted in part and denied in part Penn's motion to dismiss. In a Memorandum and Order dated October 7, 2010, the Court dismissed all claims except for the plaintiff's breach of contract claim against Penn.

The Court held an on-the-record telephone conference with the plaintiff and defense counsel on December 3, 2010, to discuss a schedule for the case. During the conference, the plaintiff requested permission to file an amended complaint. The parties also discussed a schedule for discovery, at which time defense counsel requested that the plaintiff submit to a deposition in Philadelphia and sign authorizations for the release of records. The plaintiff, who resides in Europe, was reluctant to travel to Philadelphia, and requested that depositions be taken via video conference. Tr. of December 3, 2010, Telephone Conference ("12/3/10 Tr."), at 11. The plaintiff also explained that he could not provide dates for a deposition, because he was moving to an as-yet undetermined country. 12/3/10 Tr. at 15. At the conclusion of the conference, the parties agreed that: (1) the plaintiff would file a motion to amend his complaint by January 3, 2011; and (2) during the week of January 3, 2011, the plaintiff would inform defense counsel of his new address and provide possible dates for a deposition. See Order of December 6, 2010.

II. Failure to Participate in Discovery and Comply with Orders

This case has not advanced in any material respect since the telephone conference on December 3, 2010. Following the telephone conference, the plaintiff sent several letters in which he explained that he would move forward with the litigation only upon receipt of full document production from Penn. The plaintiff proposed March 30, 2011, as a deadline to file a motion to amend his complaint. See January 2, 2011, Letter from Jiri Pik (Docket No. 43-1, at 23). The Court granted the plaintiff until January 21, 2011, to file a motion to amend his complaint.

The plaintiff did not comply with the deadline to file a motion. Instead, the plaintiff sent a letter on January 22, 2011, requesting that the Court "postpone any schedule until we get all the information from the Penn [sic] for the next step." January 22, 2011, Letter from Jiri Pik (Docket No. 43-1, at 27).

On January 25, 2011, Penn served interrogatories and document requests on the plaintiff. See Ex. 1 to Def.'s Mot. Penn also provided authorizations for the release of the plaintiff's work, medical, psychiatric and educational records for the plaintiff to sign. The plaintiff neither objected to nor answered Penn's discovery requests. Instead, on January 30, 2011, the plaintiff sent a letter to the Court and to defense counsel, explaining:

I do and will refuse to submit any document or to answer any question unrelated to the matter at hand, which is essentially the event and the consequences of why the Penn fabricated a grade and refused to carry out the grade appeal in contradiction with the rules of Penn.

January 30, 2011, Letter from Jiri Pik (Docket No. 43-1, at 31). The plaintiff also requested a telephone conference with the Court, and explained: "Until this phone call, I will ignore those requests for the access to any document of any kind from my entire life or the questions which have nothing to do with the intentionally fabricated grade and its consequences." Id.

The Court held a second telephone conference with the plaintiff and defense counsel on February 16, 2011. During the phone conference, the Court again discussed a deposition schedule with the parties. The plaintiff stated that he would only submit to depositions after Penn responded to his specific questions.*fn2 Tr. of February 16, 2011, Telephone Conference ("2/16/11 Tr."), at 20. In addition, the plaintiff stated that he would not be available to come to the United States for a deposition until the end of June, 2011, in view of "[e]mployment and some exams ... I'm currently overloaded." 2/16/11 Tr. at 29. The plaintiff reiterated his request that depositions proceed via video conference. Id. at 30.

During the phone conference, the plaintiff also argued that Penn's discovery requests were unrelated to the case. 2/16/11 Tr. at 22. The Court informed the plaintiff that he would have two weeks to explain, in writing, his opposition to Penn's discovery requests, as well as his request for remote depositions. 2/16/11 Tr. at 28. Finally, the Court reminded the plaintiff of his discovery obligations as a litigant in the United States. 2/16/11 Tr. at 32-33. The Court warned the plaintiff that if he did not comply with the Court's orders, he could face ...


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