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Bolton v. International Paper Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 21, 2019


         SECTION L (1)

          ORDER & REASONS

          Eldon E. Fallon U.S. District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is a motion seeking reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of Civil Action Number 16-13346, Bolton v. International Paper as a result of Plaintiff's failure to comply with several court orders, including a rule to show cause why this action should not be dismissed. R. Doc. 78. The Motion is opposed. R. Doc. 81. The Court heard oral argument on the Motion on April 3, 2019.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case is one in a series of class actions arising out of injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiffs as a result of an eruption at the Bogalusa Paper Mill on June 10, 2015. R. Doc. 1-2 at 1. Following the incident, Plaintiffs filed four separate class actions in state court, which Defendant International Paper Company subsequently removed to this Court.[1] In each action, Plaintiffs assert claims against Defendant for failure to provide complete and accurate information about the chemical composition and known risks presented by “black liquor, ” the chemical allegedly discharged from a ruptured evaporator tank. R. Doc. 1-2 at 1. Relevant to the instant motion is the case brought by Jamia Bolton, Bolton v. International Paper Co. No. 16-13346. Ms. Bolton is represented by Mr. Barry Bolton.

         During the Court's December 2018 telephone status conference, the Court ordered the parties to pick four individual Plaintiffs' cases that would proceed to trial. Thereafter, Magistrate Judge van Meerveld advised the Court that Mr. Bolton had not been participating in status conferences set before her and that he had not been responding to Defendants' discovery requests. This became an issue for all parties, as one of Mr. Bolton's purported clients, Ms. Patrice Belton, had been selected as one of the Plaintiffs in the upcoming Bellweather trial. Notably, since this action was removed to this Court in 2016, Mr. Bolton has made an appearance at only four out of twenty-four status conferences.[2]

         As a result of Mr. Bolton's failure to participate and Defendant's motion to dismiss Ms. Belton's claims for failure to prosecute, R. Doc. 71, the Court issued a Rule to Show Cause on February 21, 2019, ordering Mr. Bolton to appear before the Court to explain his failure to respond to opposing counsel and comply with the Court's orders, R. Doc. 72. This was Mr. Bolton's second rule to show cause. See R. Doc. 9 (ordering Mr. Bolton to show cause for his failure to participate in a status conference). Mr. Bolton failed to appear, and the Court dismissed his case. R. Doc. 76. On March 21, 2019, Mr. Bolton filed a motion seeking reconsideration, arguing that he had not received notice of the Rule, nor had he received any other Court orders. R. Doc. 78. Notably, Mr. Bolton confirmed that the email address listed on the docket was correct. Id. The Court set the motion for oral argument. R. Doc. 80.

         On March 26, 2019, Defendant International Paper filed an opposition, arguing that allowing Mr. Bolton to reopen this case would be prejudicial to them, given his repeated failures to comply with the Court's orders and discovery. Defendant also points out that Mr. Bolton's conduct has been an issue since the case was removed in 2016. Specifically, it points to:

1. October 13, 2016, when the Court required Mr. Bolton to explain his reason for being absent from a status conference and why he should not be held in contempt for that absence and ordered Mr. Bolton to explain why his case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. R. Doc. 9.
2. June 15, 2018, after Mr. Bolton filed three deficient pleadings, the Court ordered “that before filing further pleadings Plaintiffs' counsel shall familiarize himself with the Federal and Local Rules and the Courts' electronic filing system.” R. Doc. 39. Mr. Bolton has since filed several deficient documents.
3. The February 8, 2019 status conference before Magistrate Judge van Meerveld, during which Judge van Meerveld ordered Plaintiffs to provide Defendant with written discovery responses by February 12, 2019; Mr. Bolton failed to appear at the status conference and failed to comply with Judge van Meerveld's order. R. Doc. 69.

         Moreover, Defendant represents that Mr. Bolton has not propounded discovery on Defendant since 2016. R. Doc. 81 at 2. Thus, Defendant contends, Mr. Bolton will be unable to prosecute his claims against it. Id.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Mr. Bolton's main defense of his failure to participate in discovery is that he never received notice from the Court regarding any status conferences, orders, or the rule ...

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