United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT is the  Motion for Default Judgment filed by
Plaintiff Worth Industries, Inc., d/b/a GMSM
(“Worth”), requesting that a default judgment be
entered against both named defendants for their failure to
comply with discovery obligations and Court orders. The
Motion has been fully briefed. After due consideration, the
Court concludes that a default judgment is not appropriate.
The Motion will be denied.
filed its original complaint in December 2017 against Talon
Electrical and Mechanical Group, LLC. Following a case
management conference, the parties engaged in limited
discovery. Thereafter, Worth filed an amended complaint
adding claims against a member of the Talon LLC - Randall W.
Moore answered the amended complaint, the magistrate judge
conducted a telephonic discovery conference to inquire into
the reason that Talon had not timely responded to discovery.
Defense counsel was directed to provide complete discovery
responses no later than July 30, 2018. (See Minute
Entry Order, July 18, 2018.) The next day (July 19, 2018), a
new attorney filed answers to the amended complaint on behalf
of Talon and Moore. (See ECF Nos. 20, 21.)
August 6, Worth filed a motion to compel, asserting that
Talon had failed to meet the July 30 deadline. (See
Worth Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 22.) Talon did not respond to
the motion to compel. Accordingly, the motion was granted,
and Talon was ordered to provide complete discovery responses
within seven days and pay $582.50 in attorneys' fees
within twenty days. (See Order, ECF No. 25.) About
three months later, having received no discovery responses or
payment, Worth filed this Motion for Default Judgment. Talon
and Moore each filed a response in opposition.
Court considers Worth's motion 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” and “rendering a default judgment against
the disobedient party.” Id. “When a
district court awards default judgment as a discovery
sanction, two criteria must be met. First, the penalized
party's discovery violation must be willful. Second, the
drastic measure is only to be employed where a lesser
sanction would not substantially achieve the desired
deterrent effect.” Plasticsource Workers Comm. v.
Coburn, 283 Fed.Appx. 181, 184 (5th Cir. 2008) (internal
citations omitted). “The reviewing court may also
consider whether the discovery violation prejudiced the
opposing party's preparation for trial, and whether the
client was blameless in the violation.” Id.
to issue default judgment is “committed to the
discretion of the district judge.” Lewis v.
Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Mason v. Lister, 562 F.2d 343, 345 (5th Cir. 1977)).
“[D]efault judgments are a drastic remedy, not favored
by the Federal Rules and resorted to by courts only in
extreme situations.” Id. (quoting Sun Bank
of Ocala v. Pelican Homestead & Savings Ass'n,
874 F.2d 274, 276 (5th Cir. 1989)). Default judgments are
typically appropriate only when a party has abandoned the
case and “the adversary process has been halted because
of [the] essentially unresponsive party.” Sun Bank
of Ocala, 874 F.2d at 276 (citations omitted).
the Court finds that the Rule 37(b) sanction of default
judgment against Randall Moore is not warranted. He has not
been the subject of a motion to compel, and it appears from
the emails attached as an exhibit to Plaintiff's motion
that Plaintiff failed to serve its discovery requests on
Moore until August 6 - the same day the motion to compel
directed to Talon was filed. (Pl. Mot. Ex. 1, ECF No. 27.)
Although Worth asserts in his reply brief that Moore has
still not provided initial disclosures or responded to
discovery requests, default judgment is not an appropriate
sanction at this point. Should Moore continue with
noncompliance, Worth is encouraged to bring the issue before
the Magistrate Judge so that the facts may be established.
Talon's failures to cooperate with discovery and obey the
Court's orders, it is not clear that Talon's
violations leading up to the Order to Compel were willful.
Instead, it appears that the violations may have been due to
Talon's previous counsel. With new counsel, Talon
requested an opportunity to comply with its obligations in
its response to the Motion for Default Judgment and
immediately forwarded a check to Talon for the attorneys'
fees award. (Talon Resp. 4, ECF No. 30.) Worth replied that
Talon had still not provided the “full discovery”
ordered by the Court, despite having additional time to do
so. Once again, Worth's assertions of continued
noncompliance by Talon should be subjected to fact finding.
The Court declines to order the drastic remedy of default
judgment on the record as it now exists. Additionally, the
parties are encouraged to confer in good faith to resolve
outstanding discovery issues and, if necessary seek the
guidance and assistance of the magistrate judge.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the 
Motion for Default Judgment filed by Plaintiff Worth
Industries, Inc., d/b/a GMSM, is DENIED.