United States District Court, D. Oregon
ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff Glas-Weld Systems, Inc., brings patent infringement and trade secret claims against defendants Michael P. Boyle, dba Surface Dynamix, and Christopher Boyle pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271 et seq and Oregon law. Currently before the court are plaintiff's motion to show cause why default judgment should not be entered, as well as defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to comply with federal discovery rules. Plaintiff's motion for default judgment is denied at this time, though the court orders sanctions against defBndants in the form of attorney's fees. Defendants' motion is denied.
The lengthy and convoluted procedural history of this case and the parties' disputes are well-documented by plaintiff's filings and the docket of record. Put simply, defendants repeatedly have failed to comply with plaintiff's discovery requests, deadlines, and court orders, requiring otherwise unwarranted judicial intervention. See, e.g., docs. 51, 63, 174, 186, 199. For example, Michael Boyle has represented that he will provide certain documents or information - such as expert reports - by a certain date, only to renege at the last minute for questionable. and unsubstantiated reasons. See doc. 186-3, Ex. Cat 1; 186-18, Ex. R. Further, despite repeated warnings and admonishment from the court, defendants continue to communicate with plaintiff's counsel in an unnecessarily argumentative and unprofessional manner. See, e.g., doc. 186, Exs. I, O-P, U.
Because of their pro se status and the hope that the parties could move this case toward resolution, the court has tolerated defendants' conduct to an extent. However, the court has grown increasingly weary of defendants' conduct and their failure to abide by the relevant deadlines and the court's discovery orders. Recently, after defendants repeatedly failed to provide expert reports requested by plaintiff and ordered by the court, the court ordered defendants to produce them by May 1, 2015. Doc. 188. The court warned defendants that failure to do so could result in sanctions, including default judgment against them. Defendants, unsurprisingly, missed the deadline and apparently provided the expert reports (with notable deficiencies) two to three days afterward. Prior to May 1, 2015, defendants made no effort to contact the court or plaintiff's counsel to explain the delay or otherwise seek leave for the late production.
Instead, on May 4, 2015, Michael Boyle filed a submission in an attempt to explain and excuse the delay. Michael Boyle represented that "[e]xtenuating health problems" left him unable to provide the expert reports by May 1, 2015, in that he was "affect[ed] by a life threatening illness" that required transportation by ambulance from a health clinic in Sisters, Oregon, to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend for hospitalization. Doc. 191. Michael Boyle also claimed that plaintiff made "false" accusations about his alleged attempt to harass an employee of plaintiff, which drove Michael Boyle into a "dangerous depressed mood." Doc. 191. According to Michael Boyle, "the following Monday" - April 27, 2015 - he informed his son, defendant Christopher Boyle, that he was suicidal. Christopher Boyle allegedly called 911 and the Deschutes County Sheriff's office conducted a search for Michael Boyle and eventually contacted and interviewed him. Doc. 191.
Christopher Boyle also filed a submission on May 4, 2011, in response to plaintiff's mbtion to show cause. While referencing Michael Boyle's hospital admittance, he quite notably omitted any reference to Michael Boyle's threat of suicide, a 911 call, or a search by the Sheriff's Office. Doc. 193. Given the discrepancy and defendants' history of behavior in this case, the court ordered defendants to provide documentation to support their representations regarding Michael Boyle's medical emergency and the search by the Sheriff's Office.
Michael Boyle complied with the court's order, in part, and provided a discharge summary from St. Charles Health Systems. Michael Boyle did not submit documentation regarding the ambulance or his condition upon admittance.
The discharge report reflects that Michael Boyle was treated for a bleeding ulcer from April 21 to 23, 2015. Notably, the court issued the order to produce expert reports on April 28, 2015, several days after Michael Boyle was discharged. Neither Michael Boyle nor Christopher Boyle contacted to court about Michael Boyle's medical condition, even though the court had ordered defendants to do so in a prior order. Regardless, Michael Boyle was discharged with few restrictions; even if his medical condition prevented him from producing the expert reports in a timely manner, Christopher Boyle certainly could have done so.
More troubling is Michael Boyle's representation to the court about a search for him by the Sheriff's Office on April 27, 2015, the day before the court issued its order. As mentioned, Christopher Boyle did not mention this event in his submission to the court. Doc. 193. Further, despite being ordered to do so, Michael Boyle never provided the Sheriff's Office report regarding the alleged incident. Michael Boyle first informed the court that he was in the process of obtaining it; then, Michael Boyle informed the court that the report cost twenty dollars and he did not order the report due to a ten-day delay. Instead, Michael Boyle provided contact information for the Sheriff's Office. Doc. 197.
However, plaintiff contacted the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and was informed that a 911 incident report was filed regarding the Boyles on April 20, 2105, contrary to Michael Boyle's assertion that the incident occurred on April 27, 2015. Further, plaintiff was informed that a report for the incident could be obtained in a week for a five-dollar fee. Doc. 200. When ordered to explain the failure to provide the Sheriff's report and explain the discrepancy, Michael Boyle filed another ex parte response and stated that his depression and anxiety caused him to confuse the dates of the event. The court fails to understand how that is possible, given the very short time frame involved. While the court empathizes with those who suffer from depression, lying to the court is inexcusable and will not be tolerated. The court thus finds that sanctions are warranted for defendants' failure to abide with a court order and Michael Boyle's untruthfulness. The remaining question is the nature of the sanction - whether the court should grant plaintiff's motion for default judgment or issue a lesser sanction.
"A terminating sanction, whether default judgment against a defendant or dismissal of a plaintiff's action, is very severe." Conn. General Life Ins. Co. v. New Images of Beverly Hills, 482 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2007). "Only willfulness, bad faith, and fault' justify terminating sanctions." Id . (quoting Jorgensen v. Cassiday, 320 F.3d 906, 912 (9th Cir. 2003)). The Ninth Circuit has developed a five-part test to determine whether a case-dispositive sanction is warranted:
(1) the public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court's need to manage its dockets; (3) the risk of prejudice to the party seeking sanctions; (4) the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits; and (5) the availability of less drastic sanctions. The sub-parts of the fifth factor are whether the cobrt has considered lesser sanctions, whether it tried them, and whether it warned the recalcitrant party about the possibility of case-dispositive sanctions. This ntest" is not mechanical. It provides the district court with a way to think about what to do, not a set of conditions precedent for sanctions or a script that the district court must follow[.]
Id. (citations omitted). I find that the application of these factors generally support the entry of default judgment against the defendants in this case.
With respect to the first two factors, this case has been pending since 2012; it is now 2015. Much of the delay arises from defendants' pro se status, the hostility between plaintiff's counsel and defendants, and the repeated discovery disputes between the parties, most often as a result of defendants' failure to provide requested information. Given that a motion for summary judgment remains pending and is dependent on further discovery and depositions, it is unclear when and if this case will ever resolve. Further, this case has required numerous instances of unnecessary court intervention and will likely require additional ...