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Sanders v. Lowe's Home Centers, LLC

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

September 27, 2016

Eric Alan Sanders, Plaintiff,
Lowe's Home Centers, LLC; EEOC of Charlotte, NC; John Hayward; Mike Calzareeta; Doug Ford; Rayvon Irby, Defendants.


         Plaintiff Eric Alan Sanders (“Sanders” or “Plaintiff”) filed this action pro se against Defendants Lowe's Home Centers, LLC (“Lowe's”); the EEOC of Charlotte, NC; John Hayward (“Hayward”); Mike Calzareeta (“Calzareeta”); Doug Ford (“Ford”); and Rayvon Irby (“Irby”) alleging that he was subjected to discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e- 2000e17, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213. (ECF No. 16.) Plaintiff also alleges claims for violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims for violation of South Carolina statutory law. (ECF No. 16.)

         This matter is before the court on Lowe's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rules 37(b)(2)(A)(v) and 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 54.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) D.S.C., the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pretrial handling.[1] On July 26, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 77) in which she recommended that the court deny Lowe's Motion to Dismiss “without prejudice to seek further relief, including dismissal of the Complaint, if future circumstances so warrant, . . . .” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, which Objections are presently before the court. (ECF No. 89.) For the reasons set forth below, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's recommendation and DENIES Lowe's Motion to Dismiss.


         On December 15, 2015, Lowe's served Plaintiff with Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. (ECF No. 54-1 at 2-17.) When Lowe's did not receive any discovery responses from Plaintiff, Lowe's attorney sent correspondence to Plaintiff on January 21, 2016, requesting discovery responses in lieu of having to file a motion to compel. (ECF No. 54-2 at 2.) On January 28, 2016, Plaintiff advised Lowe's attorney by e-mail that Plaintiff intended to answer the discovery requests, but was “unable to, not unwilling to, respond appropriately at this time.” (ECF No. 54-3 at 2.)

         Thereafter, on February 3, 2016, Lowe's filed the instant Motion as a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses or, in the alternative, Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 54.) After Plaintiff failed to file a response to the Motion, the Magistrate Judge entered an Order on February 29, 2016, granting Lowe's Motion to Compel, ordering Plaintiff to fully respond to Lowe's discovery requests by March 14, 2016, and holding in abeyance any ruling on the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 56.) On March 16, 2016, Lowe's informed the court that “Sanders made some disclosures following the court's Order, but had not fully responded to its discovery requests.” (ECF No. 77 at 1 (referencing ECF No. 65 at 2).)

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 D.S.C., the Magistrate Judge, after reviewing the parties' submissions, issued the aforementioned Report and Recommendation on July 26, 2016. (ECF No. 77.) On August 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 89.)


         This court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Title VII claim via 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as it arises under a law of the United States, and also via 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3), which empowers district courts to hear claims “brought under” Title VII. Additionally, the court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's ADA claim via 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claim arises under a law of the United States, and also via 42 U.S.C. §§ 12117 & 2000e-5(f)(3), which empower district courts to hear claims by “person[s] alleging discrimination on the basis of disability.” The court may properly hear Plaintiff's state law claims based on supplemental jurisdiction since they are “so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that . . . it form[s] part of the same case or controversy . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).


         A. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which specific objections[2] are filed, and reviews those portions which are not objected to - including those portions to which only “general and conclusory” objections have been made - for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983); Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         B. The Court's Imposition of Sanctions

         Rule 37[3] permits the district court to enter orders compelling discovery and to impose an array of sanctions for the failure to comply with such orders. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(A). Use of Rule 37 sanctions rests in the sound discretion of the district court. Wilkins v. Montgomery, 751 F.3d 214, 221 (4th Cir. 2014) (citing Saudi v. Northrop Grumman Corp., 427 F.3d 271, 278-79 (4th Cir. 2005)). Extensions and delay in providing discovery are a constant problem and all sanctions provided for by Rule 37 must be available. Nat'l Hockey League v. Metro. Hockey Club, Inc., 427 U.S. 639, 643 (1976) (dismissal must be available both to sanction the parties before the court and to deter others from abusing the discovery process). To dismiss an action under Rule 37, the court must consider “(1) whether the noncomplying party acted in bad faith; (2) the amount of prejudice his noncompliance caused his adversary, which necessarily includes an inquiry into the materiality of the evidence he failed to produce; (3) the need for deterrence of the particular sort of noncompliance; and (4) the effectiveness of less drastic sanctions.” Mut. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Richards & Assocs., Inc., 872 F.2d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). Nevertheless, in considering what sanctions are appropriate, the court must focus on determining a sanction that fits the case at hand, considering the potential harm to the party seeking discovery and the conduct of the non-producing party. Taylor v. Specialty Mktg., Inc., No. 91-3053, 1993 WL 21080, at *2 (4th Cir. Feb. 2, 1993).

         Rule 41(b) authorizes a court “to dismiss an action for failure to prosecute or for failure to comply with court orders.” Dusange-Hayer v. Karnalyte Res., Inc., C/A No. 2:15-4341-DCN-BM, 2016 WL 5334682, at *4 (D.S.C. July 29, 2016). “Whether to dismiss under Rule 41(b) is a matter for the Court's discretion[.]” Id. (citing Davis v. Williams, 588 F.2d 69, 70 (4th Cir. 1978)). To dismiss an action under Rule 41, the court must consider “(1) the degree of personal responsibility on the part of the plaintiff; (2) the amount of prejudice to the defendant caused by the delay; (3) the presence or absence of a ‘drawn out history' of ...

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