Due to defendant interior design company’s failure to respond to discovery and otherwise defend against plaintiff client’s suit, an Alexandria U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge awards plaintiff a default judgment in her suit alleging breach of contract, trespass and violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Defendant has on numerous occasions failed to appear in court when required, failed to respond to plaintiff ’s discovery requests as required and failed to comply with orders of this court. Defendant’s failure to retain new counsel, as ordered by this court, is particularly troublesome given the longstanding law that a corporation may appear in federal courts only through licensed counsel.
Prejudice to plaintiff
Defendant’s noncompliance has prejudiced plaintiff by delaying the prosecution of this case and forcing plaintiff to incur the additional expense of filing a motion to compel discovery and a motion for sanctions. Plaintiff ’s time was wasted by waiting for the final pretrial conference and the show cause hearing, both of which defendant failed to attend. Defendant’s failure to retain new counsel has left plaintiff unable to contact defendant and unable to proceed in any manner with this litigation.
There is a clear need for this court to deter the sort of noncompliance engaged in by defendant. Defendant has ignored its obligations as a party to thislitigation in failing for months now to respond to plaintiff ’s discovery requests – despite an extension, a motion to compel discovery and an order granting that motion – as well as failing to respond to or appear at hearings. Sanctions are necessary to deter this type of conduct in the future and to teach defendant that obeying court orders and complying with its obligations as a party to a lawsuit are not optional.
In light of defendant’s extensive noncompliance in this case, less drastic sanctions are not likely to be effective. This court has twice warned defendant that failure to comply with the orders of the court may result in default or summary judgment being entered against defendant. Nonetheless, defendant has taken no action to comply with these orders or to otherwise participate in this litigation. Plaintiff ’s motion for sanctions has similarly elicited no response from defendant.
The court concludes default judgment should be entered against defendant Robert Shields Interiors Inc. as to plaintiff ’s complaint in the amount of $250,433.06 comprised of: $46,263.50 for breach of contract – or alternatively for defendant’s violation of the VCPA – for providing plaintiff with and charging her for damaged, used or otherwise nonconforming furniture; $73,519.50 for defendant’s unauthorized and undisclosed markups in violation of the VCPA, including trebling under that statute for defendant’s willful violations; $10,000 for plaintiff ’s emotional distress due to defendant’s willful trespasses, including surprising her in her home one morning, in her bathrobe, as she finished her morning shower; $119,640.62 in attorney’s fees and $1,009,44 in costs.
Defendant’s counterclaim is dismissed with prejudice.
Johnson v. Robert Shields Interiors Inc. (Buchanan) No. 1:15cv820, May 11, 2016; USDC at Alexandria, Va. VLW 016-3-236, 29 pp.