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Lassiter v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

February 25, 2015

ROBERT LASSITER Plaintiff-pro se
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al. Defendants

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NITZA I. QUINONES ALEJANDRO, J.

INTRODUCTION

On January 6, 2015, this Court issued an Order directing Plaintiff Robert Lassiter ("Plaintiff) to file and serve a response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment by February 20, 2015, and warned Plaintiff that his failure to do so would be deemed "a failure to prosecute" and would result in the entry of judgment against him pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (Rule) 41(b) and an order granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment, as unopposed, without a merits analysis. [ECF 14]. As of the date of this Memorandum Opinion, Plaintiff has neither complied with nor responded to that Order in any manner. Consequently, after having carefully considered and weighed the factors set forth in Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984), Plaintiffs complaint is dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to prosecute under Rule 41(b) and judgment is entered against Plaintiff and in favor of Defendants, the City of Philadelphia (the "City") and Police Officers Richard Holland and Ned Felici (collectively "Defendants").

BACKGROUND

On January 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed a counseled complaint against the City, Richard Holland and a John Doe defendant[1] alleging claims for excessive force, bystander liability, and conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. §1983. [ECF 1]. On May 15, 2014, counsel for both Plaintiff and Defendants attended a pretrial conference convened pursuant to Rule 16, at the conclusion of which this Court entered a Scheduling Order. [ECF 6 and 7]. On July 25, 2014, Plaintiffs counsel filed a petition for leave to withdraw as counsel, [ECF 9], which was granted by Order dated August 22, 2014, that also stayed the matter for thirty (30) days to allow Plaintiff to obtain new counsel. [ECF 10].

Pursuant to the Scheduling Order, [ECF 7], on December 8, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. [ECF 11]. Under the Scheduling Order, Plaintiffs opposition to that motion was due on December 22, 2014. Plaintiff never responded to Defendant's summary judgment motion nor sought additional time in which to do so.

By Order dated December 9, 2014, the parties and/or their counsel were directed to attend a final pretrial conference on February 12, 2015, and to file pretrial memoranda ten (10) days prior to the conference. [ECF 12]. Defendants complied with this Order by filing their pretrial memorandum on February 2, 2015, [ECF 13], and attending the scheduled final pretrial conference. [ECF 15]. Plaintiff neither filed a pretrial memorandum nor attended the final pretrial conference.

On February 6, 2015, this Court issued an Order noting Plaintiffs failure to comply with this Court's previous orders, and directing Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment by February 20, 2015. [ECF 14]. The Order further advised Plaintiff that his "failure to comply with this Order shall be deemed a failure to prosecute this action and to comply with a court order, and will result in the entry of a default judgment against Plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) and an order granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment, as unopposed, without a merits analysis." As of the date of this Memorandum Opinion, Plaintiff has failed to respond to either Defendants' motion or this Court's above-described Orders.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 41(b) authorizes district courts to involuntarily dismiss an action, with prejudice, "where a plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order . . . ." See Fed.RCiv.P. 41(b); see also Link v. Wabash Railroad Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629 (1962); Poulis, 141 F.2d at 868. Recognizing that dismissals with prejudice or the entry of default judgment are "drastic sanctions, " the Third Circuit in Poulis, instructed district courts to apply a six-factor balancing test to determine whether dismissal with prejudice or the entry of default judgment, as a sanction for a litigant's non-compliance with court orders, is appropriate. 747 F.2d at 867-68. Courts in this circuit generally apply the Poulis factors when considering either the entry of default judgment or the dismissal of a complaint, with prejudice. See e.g., Plumbers Union Local No. 690 v. F.P.S. Plumbing, Inc., 2009 WL 2591153, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 20, 2009); Fetter v. North American Alcohols, Inc., 2009 WL 2179659, at *2 (E.D. Pa. July 21, 2009); Eggleston v. Lewis, 2014 WL 690555, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 24, 2014); Paschal v. McKeesport Elderly Housing Corp., 2007 WL 2317463, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 7, 2007).

The Poulis factors require district courts to consider: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary; (3) whether the party has 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 or default; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim and defenses. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868. However, not all of the factors need weigh in favor of dismissal or the entry of default judgment against a plaintiff nor need be satisfied. See Briscoe v. Klaus, 538 F.3d 252, 263 (3d Cir. 2008) ("While no single Poulis factor is dispositive, we have also made it clear that not all of the Poulis factors need be satisfied in order to dismiss a complaint."); C.T. Bedwell & Sons, Inc. v. Int'l. Fidelity Ins. Co., 843 F.2d 683, 696 (3d Cir. 1988) (noting that the district court did not abuse its discretion where five Poulis factors favored dismissal). The decision to dismiss a complaint, with prejudice, or to enter default judgment, is within the district court's discretion. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868.

DISCUSSION

As stated, it is within this Court's discretion to dismiss the complaint, with prejudice, or to enter default judgment against Plaintiff, should the review and balancing of the Poulis factors warrant such court action. Therefore, this Court will briefly highlight each factor to determine whether the dismissal of the ...


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