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Samadi v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

April 17, 2018

Helen Samadi, also known as Helen Samadi Diamond, Plaintiff,
v.
United States, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Helen Samadi, a self-represented litigant, seeks a refund for overpayment of income tax pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7422. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.) for a Report and Recommendation on the defendant's motion for sanctions seeking dismissal of the Complaint for Helen Samadi's failure to participate in discovery. (ECF No. 109.) Helen Samadi filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 110), and the defendant replied (ECF No. 112). Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court finds that the defendant's motion should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This action was initiated by Helen Samadi's former husband, Mike Samadi, in February 2016. Mike Samadi's claims as to his 2002, 2003, and 2004 tax refund were dismissed. (ECF No. 51.) The court subsequently dismissed Mike Samadi's claims regarding his 2008 tax refund (ECF No. 104), finding that Mike Samadi lacked standing because the 2008 taxes were paid in full by Helen Samadi. The court also granted Helen Samadi's motion to intervene as a plaintiff in this action (ECF No. 79). On October 2, 2017, the court issued a scheduling order setting a deadline of November 20, 2017, by which Helen Samadi and the defendant were to conduct discovery. (ECF No. 82.) On that same date, the court also issued an order directing Helen Samadi to complete paperwork necessary for her to proceed in forma pauperis, and advising her of her responsibility to inform the Clerk of Court in writing of any change in her address. (ECF No. 80.) The court specifically warned Helen Samadi that “[if], as a result of your failure to comply with this order, you fail to meet a deadline set by this court, your case may be dismissed for violating this order.” (Id. at 2.)

         The defendant filed a motion to compel on December 5, 2017 in which it informed the court of Helen Samadi's failure to respond to its timely served requests for production and interrogatories, and requested an order from the court compelling Helen Samadi to respond. (ECF No. 97.) Helen Samadi did not respond to the defendant's motion. Accordingly, on February 6, 2018, the court issued an order granting the defendant's motion without opposition filed. (ECF No. 106.) In its order, the court directed Helen Samadi to respond to the defendant's discovery requests by February 20, 2018, and warned her that failure to comply may result in sanctions, including dismissal of the Complaint. (Id.) On February 22, 2018, the defendant filed a motion seeking the sanction of dismissal for Helen Samadi's failure to comply with the court's order and failure to participate in discovery. (ECF No. 109.)

         DISCUSSION

         A. Applicable Standards

         Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the court to enter orders compelling discovery and to impose an array of sanctions for a party's failure to comply with such orders. If a party fails to obey an order to provide or permit discovery, the court may issue an order “dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(A). A party's failure, after being served with proper notice, to attend her own deposition or respond to discovery may be sanctioned by the court as provided in Rule 37(b)(2)(A). Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(d)(1), (3). Similarly, Rule 41(b) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for failure to prosecute or failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or an order of the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); see Ballard v. Carlson, 882 F.2d 93, 95 (4th Cir. 1989).

         When exercising its discretion to impose sanctions under Rule 37, a court should consider: “(1) whether the noncomplying party acted in bad faith; (2) the amount of prejudice [her] noncompliance caused [her] adversary, which necessarily includes an inquiry into the materiality of the evidence [s]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). In considering whether to dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 41(b), the court is required to apply four factors: (1) the degree of personal responsibility on the part of the plaintiff; (2) the amount of prejudice to the defendant due to the delay; (3) the history of the plaintiff in proceeding in a dilatory manner; and (4) the effectiveness of sanctions less drastic sanctions than dismissal. Davis v. Williams, 588 F.2d 69, 70 (4th Cir. 1978). “Courts have held that because the standard for dismissals under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 is virtually identical to that for dismissal for failure to prosecute under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41, ‘the Court can combine its analysis of the question whether dismissal is appropriate under' both Rules.” Woods v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., C/A No. 3:10-3160-SVH, 2012 WL 601872, at *3 (D.S.C. Feb. 23, 2012) (citation omitted).

         B. Defendant's Motion

         The defendant seeks the sanction of dismissal of this action due to Helen Samadi's failure to comply with an order of the court and her failure to participate in discovery. (ECF No. 109.)

         In response to the defendant's motion, Helen Samadi argues that she has had medical issues and that her house was foreclosed upon on October 3, 2017. (ECF No. 110.) She also alleges that she has not received any order since the order adopting the report and recommendation.[1] Helen Samadi states that the defendant is harassing her, and that it has already received the information it seeks from Mike Samadi's discovery responses. (Id.)

         The court observes that, as summarized above, the court issued an order on October 2, 2017 that warned Helen Samadi of the consequences of failing to keep the Clerk of Court informed of her current address. (ECF No. 80.) Although she alleges that her home was foreclosed upon shortly after this date, it is clear that Helen Samadi received the court's October 2 order, as evidenced by her completing the provided application to proceed in forma pauperis and returning it to the court. (ECF No. 87.) Moreover, even assuming that Helen Samadi did not receive the defendant's motion to compel and the court's subsequent order granting that motion, upon receiving the defendant's motion for sanctions[2] Helen Samadi has made no attempt to produce the requested discovery, [3] but instead argues that the defendant is harassing her and has already received the requested information in the discovery production from Mike Samadi.

         As an initial matter, although pro se litigants are entitled to some deference from courts, see, e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), they are nonetheless subject to the same time requirements and respect for court orders as other litigants. See Ballard, 882 F.2d at 96. Considering the factors established by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the court concludes that Helen Samadi has exhibited bad faith by failing to comply with the court's order requiring her to respond to the defendant's discovery requests. The prejudice caused to the defendant by Helen Samadi's noncompliance is two-fold: not only did the defendant incur expense and expend significant time in attempting to procure discovery from Helen Samadi and filing its motions to compel and for sanctions, but the defendant was not able to receive any response to its discovery, thereby hindering the defendant's ability to defend itself against Helen Samadi's claims. Additionally, Helen Samadi's failure to comply with the court's prior order advising her of the possible consequences of failing to keep the court apprised of her current address as well as her argument that the defendant does not need discovery from her because the requests are redundant[4] demonstrates a history of proceeding in a dilatory manner as well as a failure to prosecute her own action. Moreover, as Helen Samadi appears to have no ability to pay monetary ...


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