Federal Lawsuit Dismissed with Prejudice Because Plaintiff Committed Multiple Ongoing Discovery Violations Was Not an Abuse of Discretion

Monika Salata was cleaning property owned by Weyerhauser Corp. on March 28, 2008 when she fell and was severely injured. She claimed that she fell because of loose floor tiles. Originally the lawsuit was filed in state court in the Circuit Court of Kane County, Ill.

Weyerhaeuser removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The parties attempted voluntary mediation but could not reach an agreement. At that point Salata’s attorney withdrew from representing her, and a new attorney took over in March 2012.

At a status hearing on April 4, 2012, the new lawyer stated that she needed additional time to conduct fact discovery. The court extended the discovery deadline until the end of May 2012.

After the status hearing, Weyerhaeuser sent Salata an e-mail requesting that Salata supplement her responses to its first set of interrogatories and provide answers to its second set. Salata had responded to the first set of interrogatories in October 2010, but provided insufficient answers to several of the questions. Salata did not answer the second set of interrogatories.

Salata’s counsel did not respond to Weyerhaeuser’s first e-mail or its follow-up e-mail. On Aug. 14, 2012, Weyerhaeuser sent an e-mail to Salata’s counsel stating that if she did not respond by the next day, the company would assume that Salata was refusing to respond to the supplemental discovery, and attorneys would file a motion to compel in response. The district court judge granted the motion to compel, but also granted Salata’s counsel six more weeks to complete the outstanding discovery. Salata chose not to produce any supplemental material by the new deadline, and Salata’s counsel did not appear at the status hearing on Jan. 31, 2013.

On Feb. 26, 2013, Weyerhaeuser moved to dismiss the case due to Salata’s failure to comply with the court’s discovery orders as well as want for prosecution. Weyerhaeuser also requested attorney fees. The district court declined to impose sanctions but did dismiss the case for want of prosecution after Salata’s counsel did not appear again at a hearing on a motion to dismiss. On May 9, 2013, Salata’s counsel filed a motion to reinstate, claiming that she had not been given notice on the motion to dismiss and also claiming that Salata had complied with all of the discovery requests.

Weyerhaeuser answered that by stating that Salata still had not provided information of any kind in response to its discovery requests. The district court denied Salata’s motion to reinstate. Salata appealed.

The appeals court cited Roland v. Salem Contract Carriers Inc. for the proposition that the 7th Circuit has held that it was not an abuse of discretion for a district judge to dismiss a complaint with prejudice when a plaintiff has committed multiple discovery violations. In addition, the appeals panel cited Harrington v. City of Chicago in which a plaintiff’s failure to appear for court dates, to disclose material documents and to respond to written discovery comprised a sufficient record of delay and constituted more than enough reason to dismiss a case for want of prosecution.

In reviewing the record, the panel also found that Salata’s counsel’s failure to appear at multiple status hearings and Salata’s ongoing failure to provide outstanding discovery to Weyerhaeuser even after being compelled by the court provided the district court with more than enough reason to dismiss Salata’s case for failure to prosecute.

And last, the court of appeals declined to impose sanctions on Salata’s counsel under Rule 38. The panel found that Salata’s counsel acted unprofessionally, but it found that the record contained insufficient evidence to indicate that the lawyer’s behavior was to intentionally delay the proceedings or to commit an act in bad faith.

The court of appeals affirmed the decision dismissing Salata’s case with prejudice.

Monika Salata v. Weyerhaeuser Corp., No. 13-3136 (7th Cir. U.S. Court of Appeals, July 7, 2014).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling commercial litigation, car accident cases, truck accidents cases, nursing home abuse cases, nursing home neglect cases and product defect cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn, Robbins, Calumet Park, Countryside, Oakbrook Terrace, Oakbrook, Yorkfield, Villa Park, Chicago (Oz Park, Pill Hill, Pilsen, Printer’s Row, Pulaski Park, Ravenswood Gardens, Sheffield, South Shore, Hyde Park, Loyola Park, Little Italy, Little Village, Canaryville, Bucktown, Bronzeville, Beverly, Back of the Yards), Cicero, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evergreen Park, Hinsdale, Joliet and Lincolnwood, Ill.

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