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Darville v. Turner Industries Group, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

February 20, 2015



BRIAN A. JACKSON, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Claims with Prejudice, (Doc. 34), filed by Defendant Turner Industries Group, LLC ("Turner"), seeking involuntary dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff Sherin Darville's ("Darville") employment discrimination, retaliation, unsafe work environment, and tort action, pursuant to the Court's inherent authority and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 41(b). Darville has not opposed Turner's motion. Oral argument is not necessary. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons stated below, Turner's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Claims with Prejudice (Doc. 34) is DENIED.

I. Background

A. Darville's Allegations and Turner's Response

Darville's Amended Complaint avers that she is an African-American female and former employee of Turner Industries who suffered discrimination in hiring, discipline, treatment, and termination based on her race and sex while working for Turner, intermittently and in different capacities, between April 1996 and May 2011. (Doc. 3). Darville also makes unspecified allegations of defamation, "wrongful injur[y], " unsafe work environment, and retaliation. (Doc. 3 at p. 3-4).

In its Answer, Turner states that it employed Darville, in various positions and intervals, between April 1996 and October 2011. (Doc. 6 at p. 2-3). However, Turner denies the substantive allegations in Darville's Amended Complaint, and asserts a number of legal and equitable defenses. (Doc. 6).

B. Relevant Procedural History

This action was initiated in Texas on January 30, 2011, and the claims of its 216 original, individual plaintiffs were transferred to this Court on July 31, 2011. (Doc. 34-1 at p. 2). On September 20, 2013, Darville was one of twelve plaintiffs whose claims were severed into individual and separate civil actions by court order. (Doc. 2). Darville filed an Amended Complaint, consisting of the Court's standard Amended Complaint form and two attachments, on October 24, 2013. (Doc. 3). Turner filed its answer on November 21, 2013. (Doc. 6). The Court granted Darville's requests (Docs. 4 & 5) to proceed in forma pauperis as to future court costs on November 25, 2013. (Doc. 8).

The Court originally set a fact discovery deadline of November 28, 2014. (Doc. 12). Turner filed a Motion to Compel on May 1, 2014 (Doc. 28), citing Darville's deficient response to its discovery request; the Court issued an order ("discovery order") granting the Motion to Compel on July 25, 2014 (Doc. 31). On November 21, 2014, Turner filed a Motion for Extension of Fact Discovery Deadline, citing Darville's failure to comply with the discovery order and respond to pending motions. (Doc. 35 at ¶ 3). Turner requested an additional sixty days to "permit Turner to obtain Plaintiff's response to the Discovery Order..." and conduct Darville's deposition. ( Id. ). Similarly, on December 17, 2014, Darville's new attorney requested an additional sixty days to respond to the outstanding discovery request. (Docs. 37 & 38). The Court granted Turner's motion for an additional sixty days to complete fact discovery on December 19, 2014, and directed Darville to fully comply with the ruling granting Turner's Motion to Compel by January 9, 2015. (Doc. 39). However, the Court additionally found that Darville had not shown good cause as to why her fact discovery deadline should be extended. ( Id. ).

II. Standard of Review

Under Rule 41, a court may, on a defendant's motion, dismiss a plaintiff's action or any of her claims for want of prosecution or failure to comply with the Rules or a court order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Such a dismissal generally operates as an adjudication on the merits, unless the court's dismissal states otherwise. Id. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has characterized an involuntary dismissal with prejudice as "the ultimate sanction, " and instructed that it should only be used in the "most egregious, " "most flagrant, " and "extreme" circumstances. Callip v. Harris Cnty. Child Welfare Dep't, 757 F.2d 1513, 1519 (5th Cir. 1985); Ramsey v. Signal Delivery Serv., Inc., 631 F.2d 1210, 1214 (5th Cir. 1980); Boazman v. Econ. Lab., Inc., 537 F.2d 210, 212 (5th Cir. 1976). Dismissal with prejudice is a "severe sanction" that "should be applied infrequently, and only when it is justified by extreme delay." Ramsey, 631 F.2d at 1214.

A dismissal with prejudice should only be granted 1) "upon a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct by the plaintiff" and 2) when the best interests of justice would not be served by lesser sanctions. Callip, 757 F.2d at 1519; see also Thanksgiving Tower Partners v. Anros Thanksgiving Partners, No. 92-1209, 1993 WL 35716, at *8 (5th Cir. Feb. 5, 1993) (unpublished, but persuasive) ("In addition to finding a pattern of delay or contumacious conduct, the district court must find that lesser sanctions were or would be ineffective."). In addition to these two requisite factors, aggravating factors should be present including: 1) delay directly attributable to the plaintiff, instead of the plaintiff's attorney, 2) "actual prejudice to the defendant, " and 3) "delay caused by intentional conduct." Callip, 757 F.2d at 1519 (stating that "one or more" of the three aggravating factors should be present); see also Webb v. Morella, 457 F.Appx. 448, 453 (5th Cir. 2012) (unpublished, but persuasive) (stating that "at least one of three aggravating factors" should be present); Holden v. Ill. Tool Works, Inc., 429 F.Appx. 448, 453 (5th Cir. 2011) (unpublished but persuasive) (stating that "several aggravating factors" should be present to "bolster[]" the requisite factors).

III. Analysis

A. The First Factor: Delay or ...

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