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Brown v. Express Scripts

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 25, 2019

OBED BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPRESS SCRIPTS, Defendant.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Express Scripts Services Company's (“Express Scripts” or “Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 117]. Defendant moves the Court to dismiss Plaintiff Obed Brown's (“Brown” or “Plaintiff”) case with prejudice based on her failure to comply with Court Orders and her discovery obligations. Plaintiff, acting pro se, opposes Defendant's motion. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's motion and dismiss Plaintiff's case with prejudice.

         Facts and Background

         Plaintiff initially filed her Complaint against Express Scripts on March 9, 2017. Plaintiff was formerly employed by Express Scripts from October 2013 until December 2015. Plaintiff's pro se Complaint alleged that Defendant discriminated against her based on her sex and in retaliation. Plaintiff also alleged various other claims, including, criminal claims, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, race, black listing, and gang stalking. Plaintiff alleged damages of wrongful termination, poverty, housing loss, hospitalization due to “severe mental torture” by Express Scripts, ruined character, hindrance of medical treatment for gender identity disorder, black listing, and gang stalking. Following a partial motion to dismiss by Defendant, most of Plaintiff's claims were dismissed, leaving only the sex discrimination/harassment and retaliation claims.

         On May 1, 2018, Defendant served Plaintiff with written discovery including interrogatories, requests for production including medical and employment records authorizations, and requests for admission. Plaintiff served Defendant with her answers to interrogatories and responses to requests for admission on May 30, and her responses to request for production on June 3. For most of her responses and answers, Plaintiff declined to respond or asserted privileges and objections that were irrelevant or unsupported. Defendant, asserting that Plaintiff's responses were “severely deficient, ” filed a Motion to Compel on June 20, 2018. On July 12, the Court granted Defendant's Motion to Compel Responses to Its Interrogatories and Requests for Production and Motion to Deem Its Requests for Admission Admitted.

         Defendant filed a Motion for Sanctions on August 2 based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's July 12 Order. On August 15, the Court ordered Plaintiff to provide complete responses to Defendant's first set of interrogatories and requests for production within 14 days, and warned Plaintiff that failure to comply would result in Plaintiff's Complaint being stricken and dismissed. Plaintiff filed new responses to interrogatories on August 24, 2018. Again, Plaintiff refused to sufficiently respond to interrogatories, and refused to provide signed medical and employment record authorizations. Defendant filed a Memorandum to the Court on August 30 requesting that the Court strike Plaintiff's Complaint and dismiss this action. On September 7, Defendant filed a Supplemental Motion for Sanctions for Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's Order.

         Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel production of documents from Defendant on August 24. The Court denied that Motion, noting Plaintiff's failure to comply with local rule 37-3.04, which requires a party to attempt in good faith to resolve discovery disputes with opposing counsel before filing a motion to compel.

         Discovery was required to be completed 60 days after Plaintiff provided the executed medical and employment authorizations, and the dispositive motion filing was to be completed within 84 days after Plaintiff provided the authorizations.

         On January 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed purported executed authorizations with the Court. However, Plaintiff wrote on each signed authorization that she was signing “against [her] free will and liberty, ” rendering the authorization forms ineffective. Defendant attempted to use the forms as provided to obtain medical records, but was denied. Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss on February 26, 2019. Plaintiff filed a response, Defendant filed a reply, and Plaintiff filed a surreply.

         Discussion

         Defendant requests that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims with prejudice pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 37 authorizes the district courts to impose sanctions upon parties who fail to comply with discovery orders, but dismissal may be considered as a sanction only if there is (1) an order compelling discovery, (2) a willful violation of that order, and (3) prejudice to the other party. Schoffstall v. Henderson, 223 F.3d 818, 823 (8th Cir.2000). A dismissal with prejudice is “an extreme sanction, ” and “should be used only in cases of willful disobedience of a court order or where a litigant exhibits a pattern of intentional delay.” Hunt v. City of Minneapolis, 203 F.3d 524, 527 (8th Cir.1999). “This does not mean that the district court must find that the appellant acted in bad faith, but requires ‘only that [she] acted intentionally as opposed to accidentally or involuntarily.'” Hunt, 203 F.3d at 527 (citing Rodgers v. University of Mo., 135 F.3d 1216, 1219 (8th Cir.1998)).

         Pro se litigants are not excused from complying with court orders or substantive or procedural law. Farnsworth v. City of Kansas City, 863 F.2d 33, 34 (8th Cir.1988) (per curiam). Where a court gives meaningful notice of what is expected of the pro se litigants, initially imposes less stringent sanctions when they fail to cooperate, and warns them that their failure to comply with subsequent court orders would result in “dismissal of their action, ” dismissal is proper.

         Before imposing the sanction of dismissal, “fairness requires a court to consider whether a lesser sanction is available or appropriate.” Keefer v. Provident Life and Acc. Ins. Co., 238 F.3d 937, 941 (8th Cir.2000). A district court, however, need not impose the least onerous sanction available, but the most appropriate under the circumstances. Id. Also, when a litigant's conduct “abuses the judicial process, the remedy of dismissal is within the inherent powers of the court.” Id.

         In this case, the Court finds Plaintiff has willfully disregarded the Court's orders. Plaintiff was ordered to respond to Defendant's interrogatories and requests for production on July 12, 2018 and August 15, 2018. In the written order dated August ...


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