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J.S. v. Lowndes County School District

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

October 25, 2017

J.S., a minor, by and through his mother and next friend, LAQUANDRIA JAMES; and J.W., a minor by and through his mother and next friend, SHERIKA WILBON PLAINTIFFS
v.
LOWNDES COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT and JOHN LOVE DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This civil rights action is before the Court on the Lowndes County School District's motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Doc. #39.

         I

         Relevant Procedural History

         On March 14, 2016, J.S. and J.W., two minors, filed a complaint in this Court through their mothers, Laquandria James and Shenika[1] Wilbon, respectively. Doc. #1. The complaint asserts state and federal claims against the Lowndes County School District and John Love, a District bus driver, based on a school bus altercation among J.S., J.W., and Love. Love and the District filed separate answers to the complaint. Doc. #8; Doc. #14.

         On December 13, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge David A. Sanders issued a case management order directing, among other things, that plaintiffs execute “an appropriate[] HIPAA-compliant medical authorization” and setting a discovery deadline for July 24, 2017. Doc. #18 at 3-4.

         On May 26, 2017, the District served interrogatories and requests for production on both J.W. and J.S.[2] Doc. #22. The District represents that these first requests for production included a HIPAA authorization for each plaintiff. Doc. #41 at 3. Neither plaintiff responded to the discovery requests.

         Following a telephonic status conference on June 6, 2017, the discovery deadline was extended through August 10, 2017. Doc. #26. On June 20, 2017, the District noticed the depositions of James and Wilbon for July 12, 2017. Doc. #28. Neither James nor Wilbon appeared at the scheduled depositions. See Doc. #31. Accordingly, on July 14, 2017, Judge Sanders, during a telephonic conference with the parties, directed the plaintiffs to serve their medical records and responses to discovery no later than July 19, 2017. A minute order reflecting this direction was docketed the same day. Id.

         On August 7, 2017, Judge Sanders, on the District's motion, directed the plaintiffs' counsel to pay $480.50 in costs associated with the missed depositions no later than August 21, 2017. Doc. #35. The same day, Wilbon and James appeared for their depositions. Doc. #39-9; Doc. #39-10.

         On August 24, 2017, the District filed a motion to dismiss based on the plaintiffs' discovery violations or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Doc. #39. To date, the plaintiffs have not responded to the District's motion and have not produced the Court-ordered discovery. Additionally, counsel for the plaintiffs has not paid the costs associated with the missed depositions.

         II

         Analysis

         The District's motion seeks dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims under Rule 37(b). Rule 37(b)(2)(A) grants a court authority to sanction a party for failure to obey an order “to provide or permit discovery.” Such sanctions “may include … dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part.” Id. Dismissal under this rule is committed to the district court's discretion. Batson v. Neal Spelce Assocs., Inc., 765 F.2d 511, 514 (5th Cir. 1985).

         The Fifth Circuit has articulated two similar but distinct tests for dismissal under Rule 37(b). Under one test, first ...


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