United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
R.D. a minor, by and through her personal representatives, CATHERINE DAVIS and SEAN DAVIS; and CATHERINE DAVIS, individually; and SEAN DAVIS, individually, Plaintiffs,
LAKE WASHINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT, a municipal corporation, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for
sanctions. Dkt. # 88. For the reasons below, the Court
DENIES the motion.
April 10, 2019, two days before the discovery deadline, the
District emailed fifteen documents responsive to one of
Plaintiffs' earliest requests for production. Dkt. # 89.
The documents purportedly show that the District had notice
of one student, D.H., having physical altercations with other
children. Dkt. # 88 at 2. Plaintiffs describe these documents
as both improperly “withheld” and “the most
material documents in the case.” Id. Although
the majority of the complained-about documents were produced
in April 2019, Plaintiffs' counsel did not discover them
until two months later while preparing for
trial. Plaintiffs have now moved for sanctions,
claiming that the District's conduct caused them to spend
tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary or uninformed
depositions. Plaintiffs also claim that they will be forced
to re-take most of their depositions and launch an expensive
probe into spoliation and withholding of other documents.
Dkt. # 88 at 6:
response, the District states that it informed
Plaintiffs' counsel that it would be providing D.H.'s
parents with the opportunity to object to disclosure of her
records. Dkt. # 95. Plaintiffs, however, dispute this and
argue that the District had permission to disclose the
documents somewhere between eight and ten months prior to
April 2019. Dkt. # 99. Plaintiffs also claim that the
District engaged in bad faith by miscategorizing some
documents and belatedly producing others, among other
conduct. Dkt. # 88. Plaintiffs seek $156, 623 in fees and
the District contends that this Court is without jurisdiction
to consider this motion, the Court agrees with Plaintiffs
that a motion for sanctions is a collateral matter and may be
considered even after the merits have been decided. See
McMahon v. Pier 39, L.P., 54 Fed.Appx. 645 (9th Cir.
2003) (unpublished) (citing Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx
Corp., 496 U.S. 384 (1990)).
Rule 37, if a party fails to provide information or identify
a witness as required by Rule 26(a) or (e), then the party is
not allowed to use that information or witness to supply
evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial unless the
failure was substantially justified or is harmless.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c). Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 37(c) also permits
the Court award “reasonable expenses, including
attorney's fees, caused by the failure.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1)(A). “Discovery sanctions serve
multiple purposes, ranging from coercion and compensation to
deterrence and punishment.” McDonald v. OneWest
Bank, FSB, 929 F.Supp.2d 1079 (W.D. Wash. 2013).
review of the record, any delay in disclosure appears to be
substantially justified. The District claims to have
communicated with Plaintiffs' counsel, informing him that
notice would be provided to D.H.'s parents before
releasing her records. Dkt. # 95. In a supporting
declaration, counsel for the District states that he received
permission on March 7, 2019 and that disclosure of the
documents were made shortly thereafter in early April.
Id. To the extent the District's discovery was
untimely, the record fails to show the bad faith that
Plaintiffs suggest exists in droves. See, e.g.,
McDonald, 929 F.Supp.2d at 1092-93 (finding
sanctions were appropriate where defendant obstructed the
discovery process, forcing two motions to compel, and
presented critical documents and declarations long after
discovery had closed).
their reply, Plaintiffs do not dispute that communications
occurred with the District about the timing of documents
related to D.H. Plaintiffs insist, however, that the District
had no valid reason to wait until April 2019 to make its
disclosure. While this may be the case, the proper remedy
would have been to file a motion to compel production if the
District's responses were insufficient or untimely.
Nuance Comm'ns, Inc. v. ABBYY Software House,
No. C 08-02912 JSW, 2012 WL 5904709, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Nov.
26, 2012). “Discovery disputes should be resolved soon
after the problem appears, rather than by exclusionary and
sanctions motions filed after discovery has
terminated.” Techsavies, LLC v. WDFA Mktg.
Inc., No. C10-1213BZ, 2011 WL 723983, *3 (N.D. Cal. Feb.
23, 2011); see Nuance Comm'ns, Inc., 2012 WL
5904709, at *3 (denying in part a request for sanctions where
plaintiff could have mitigated the harm from an untimely
production by simply conducting further discovery or seeking
judicial relief). Plaintiffs certainly had evidence that
administrators and teachers knew D.H. had been physical at
school and could have easily brought a discovery motion
compelling additional disclosure. See Dkt. # 41-11
at 3; Dkt. # 41-6 at 3; Dkt. # 41-10 at 9, 14. Instead,
months later, Plaintiffs have moved for sanctions for all of
its attorneys' fees and costs related to the entire
litigation. See Dkt. # 90.
the Court finds that any failure to timely disclose the
documents was harmless. The documents supplemented evidence
that was already before the Court. See Dkt. # 41-11
at 3; Dkt. # 41-6 at 3; Dkt. # 41-10 at 9, 14. Plaintiffs
also moved for consideration of later documents prior to the
Court ruling on the District's motion for summary
judgment. Dkt. # 60. The Court will not grant sanctions based
on speculative assertions of what counsel might have done
with these additional documents.
reasons stated above, the Court DENIES