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Hammonds v. Luzerne County Division of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 7, 2017

RICHARD ALLEN HAMMONDS, Plaintiff,
v.
LUZERNE COUNTY DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          Judge Brann

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Susan E. Schwab Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction.

         The plaintiff, Richard Allen Hammonds (“Hammonds”), has failed to notify this Court of a change of his address. After being ordered to show cause why this action should not be dismissed based upon that failure, Hammonds has not provided any explanation for his inaction. Because Hammonds failed to comply with the Local Rule and this Court's Standing Practice Order by notifying this Court of his address change, we recommend that his case be dismissed.

         II. Background and Procedural History.

         On November 9, 2016, Hammonds, proceeding pro se, commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, alleging cruel and unusual punishment, denial of medical care, deliberate indifference, failure to protect, failure to act, failure to intervene, retaliation, and dereliction of duty. Doc. 1. This Court issued a Standing Practice Order on November 16, 2016, notifying Hammonds, among other things, that he has an affirmative obligation to keep this Court informed of his current address and that failure to do so might be deemed as abandonment of the lawsuit. Doc. 6. Hammonds filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and a request for this Court to issue two subpoenas so that he may identify the nineteen John Does in his complaint. We granted Hammonds's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and also his request for two subpoenas. Hammonds filed an amended complaint on February 6, 2017, which names fifty-three defendants. Doc. 26. The defendants then filed an answer with affirmative defenses to the amended complaint. Doc. 33.

         We issued a case management order on March 1, 2017 (doc. 34), a copy of which was sent to SCI-Houtzdale, the address on record for Hammonds. This copy was returned as undeliverable on May 8, 2017, with a notation on the envelope that Hammonds was not at that facility and that he had been paroled. Doc. 47. We issued an order requiring Hammonds to show cause, on or before May 30, 2017, why his action should not be dismissed for his failure to keep the court informed of his address. Doc. 48. This order was returned as undeliverable on May 24, 2017. Doc. 49.

         III. Discussion.

         Local Rule 83.18 provides that parties not represented by counsel “shall maintain on file with the clerk a current address at which all notices and copies of pleadings, motions or papers in the action may be served upon.” An action may be involuntarily dismissed “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). When determining whether to dismiss as a sanction for failure to prosecute and failure to comply with court orders, a district court must balance the following six factors:

(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 or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense.

Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir.1984). No single factor is dispositive, Briscoe v. Klaus, 538 F.3d 252, 263 (3d Cir. 2008), and each factor need not be satisfied for the court to dismiss an action, Ware v. Rodale Press, Inc., 322 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2003). In this case, an assessment of the Poulis factors weighs in favor of dismissing this action.

         The first Poulis factor is the extent of the party's personal responsibility. This factor weighs in favor of dismissal because Hammonds is personally responsible for failing to comply with the Local Rule and this Court's Standing Practice Order. The Standing Practice Order, issued to Hammonds on November 16, 2016, specifically states that “[a] pro se plaintiff has the affirmative obligation to keep the court informed of his or her current address. If the plaintiff changes his or her address while this lawsuit is being litigated, the plaintiff shall immediately inform the court of the change, in writing. If the court is unable to communicate with the plaintiff because the plaintiff has failed to notify the court of his or her address, the plaintiff will be deemed to have abandoned the lawsuit.” Doc. 6. Despite this instruction, Hammonds failed to notify this Court of his new address after he was released from custody. This Court's May 20, 2017 Order, requiring him to show cause why his action should not be dismissed, was returned as undeliverable. Doc. 49. Therefore, Hammonds is personally responsible for his noncompliance with the Local Rule and the Court's Standing Practice Order.

         The second Poulis factor is prejudice to the adversary. The prejudice to the adversary bears substantial weight in support of a dismissal of a claim. Adams v. Trustees of N.J. Brewery Employees' Pension Trust Fund, 29 F.3d 863, 873-74 (3d Cir.1994). Prejudice generally includes “the irretrievable loss of evidence, the inevitable dimming of witnesses' memories or the excessive and possibly irremediable burdens or costs imposed on the opposing party.” Id. at 874. Here, Hammonds's failure to notify this Court of his address change has not yet resulted in any prejudice to the Defendants. But without a valid address or way to contact Hammonds, this case cannot move forward, and this frustrates the defendants' interest in timely resolution of the case.

         The third Poulis factor is a history of dilatoriness. A history of dilatoriness might be found from “extensive or repeated delay or delinquency, ” such as “consistent non-response to interrogatories, or consistent tardiness in complying with court orders.” Adams, 29 F.3d at 874; see alsoWare, 322 F.3d at 222. Here, although Hammonds failed to notify this Court of his address ...


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