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Dismissal Ordered for Discovery Violations

Deborah Elkins//April 8, 2014

Dismissal Ordered for Discovery Violations

Deborah Elkins//April 8, 2014

A Newport News U.S. District Court dismisses a pro se plaintiff’s disability discrimination suit because she has refused to comply with discovery requests for her medical records despite a protective order; plaintiff, a nurse, says her records are private and defendant should resort to a FOIA request.

Dismissal of an action as a result of discovery abuse is obviously one of the most severe sanctions that can be imposed. But in this case it is warranted. Plaintiff has been repeatedly advised of her obligations both by defendant and by the court. Plaintiff has advanced a variety of arguments throughout this litigation as to why she should not have to produce her medical records. She has argued: the records are confidential under HIPAA; she is entitled to withhold the records because she plans to use them for rebuttal or impeachment during the trial; the discovery deadline has passed and defendant has waived her non-compliance; the magistrate judge’s orders are “illegal” and predicated upon bias; producing the documents will “disturb” the pending summary judgment motion; and the requested information could be obtained through FOIA. The court has considered each objection and patiently explained its basis for overruling each argument. Plaintiff is not the final arbiter of what the law is. The court is, and the court has not agreed with plaintiff.

If this case were to proceed without complete production of plaintiff’s medical records, defendant would be required to defend this case with only the selective medical information plaintiff chose to release – a fundamentally unfair result. Plaintiff cannot maintain a suit premised upon an alleged disability, yet refuse to provide her medical records.

Alternative or less drastic sanctions would not suffice in this case. Plaintiff has been granted every opportunity and multiple extensions of time to provide the information. Given her intransigence, additional opportunities will not alter the result. Given plaintiff’s ongoing refusal to provide documents relevant to the fundamental issue in this case, no more limited sanction will prevent prejudice to defendant.

Wright v. James City County (Smith) No. 4:12cv153, March 18, 2014; USDC at Newport News, Va. VLW 014-3-163, 9 pp.

VLW 014-3-163

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