United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.
before this Court is the third motion for sanctions,
[ECF 38], filed by Defendant Best Legal Services, Inc.
(“Defendant”), in which Defendant seeks the
dismissal of this action for failure to prosecute due to the
repeated failures of Plaintiff Andrea Laughton
(“Plaintiff”) to comply with this Court's
previous Orders addressing her discovery obligations. In
light of the procedural posture of this case, and 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), for the reasons set forth, this
matter is dismissed for failure to prosecute.
December 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint in which she
asserted claims against Defendant for an alleged failure to
pay her overtime wages, as required by the Fair Labor
Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §201 et seq. [ECF 1].
In response to a motion to dismiss, on March 1, 2016,
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. [ECF 8]. After
Defendant filed its answer to the amended complaint, [ECF
15], on August 18, 2016, the parties attended a pretrial
conference. [ECF 19]. During the pretrial conference, it
became apparent to this Court that the amount in controversy
did not exceed $150, 000, and the matter was transferred to
the court's arbitration track, [ECF 18], and an
arbitration hearing was scheduled for February 7, 2017. [ECF
November 15, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to compel
discovery from Plaintiff. [ECF 21]. In that motion, Defendant
outlined Plaintiff's failure to respond to
Defendant's interrogatories, requests for production, and
requests for admissions. Defendant also complained of
Plaintiff's unilateral cancellation on two occasions of
Plaintiff's deposition. By Order dated December 5, 2016,
this Court granted Defendant's motion to compel, and
ordered Plaintiff to serve complete responses to
Defendant's written discovery requests and to supplement
her initial disclosures by December 16, 2016, and to provide
an alternative date for her deposition, which was to be held
on or before January 16, 2017. [ECF 24].
letter dated December 14, 2016, [ECF 25], Plaintiff's
counsel advised this Court that he had been unable to make
contact with Plaintiff, who he believed to be hospitalized
and, therefore, could not comply with the deadlines set forth
in this Court's previous Order. The next day, Plaintiff
filed a motion to extend deadlines/stay proceedings,
[ECF 26], which Defendant opposed. [ECF 30]. Defendant also
filed a motion for sanctions, [ECF 28], arguing that
Plaintiff had failed to comply with this Court's previous
discovery Order, and seeking dismissal of the action as a
Order dated December 21, 2016, this Court denied
Plaintiff's motion to extend deadlines/stay proceedings,
and ordered Plaintiff to provide this Court and Defendant
with proof of Plaintiff's hospitalization and inability
to provide the requested discovery, and the reason for
Plaintiff's apparent lack of prosecution of this action.
[ECF 31]. That Order advised Plaintiff that her failure to
comply may result in the dismissal of the action for failure
to prosecute. By Order dated December 22, 2016, [ECF 32],
this Court denied Defendant's motion for sanctions,
without prejudice, in light of this Court's December 21,
2016 Order. In response to this Court's Order, by letter
dated January 10, 2017, [ECF 33], Plaintiff's counsel
again advised this Court of his inability “to locate
the Plaintiff or verify her hospitalization.” On
January 11, 2017, Defendant filed its second motion for
sanctions. [ECF 34]. In it, Defendant outlined
Plaintiff's failure to comply with either this
Court's Order of December 5, 2016 Order, or this
Court's Order of December 21, 2016. In response,
Plaintiff's counsel admitted the alleged failures, again
attributing them to his inability to locate the Plaintiff.
[ECF 35]. By Order dated January 20, 2017, [ECF 37], this
Court denied Defendant's second motion for sanctions,
without prejudice, but gave Plaintiff until January 31, 2017,
to respond to the outstanding discovery requests. That Order
again advised Plaintiff that her failure to comply “may
result in the dismissal of this action for failure to
prosecute and/or failure to comply with this Court's
numerous orders pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
February 1, 2017, Defendant filed its underlying third motion
for sanctions, in which it outlines Plaintiff's
continuing failure to comply with this Court's previous
Orders, and notes that the arbitration hearing is scheduled
for February 7, 2017. [ECF 38].
Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) provides that an action may be
dismissed if a plaintiff “fails to prosecute or to
comply with these rules or a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
41(b). 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.
Harris v. City of Phila., 74 F.3d 1311, 1330 (3d
Cir. 1995). Because of the extreme nature of this type of
sanction, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Poulis v.
State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir.
1984), instructed district courts to apply a six-factor
balancing test to determine whether the entry of such a
dismissal order is appropriate. Id. at 867-68.
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; and (6) the meritoriousness
of the claim. Id. at 868. However, not all of the
factors need weigh in favor of entering the dismissal order
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). A decision to
enter a dismissal order is within the district court's
discretion. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868.
stated, it is within this Court's discretion to dismiss
this case for failure to prosecute should the review and
balancing of the Poulis factors warrant such a
ruling. Therefore, each Poulis factor will be
briefly addressed and weighed to determine whether
Defendant's motion for sanctions should be ...