Legal Memorandum: Dismissal for Failure to Respond to Discovery

Issue: Whether dismissal with prejudice is an appropriate remedy for a failure to respond to discovery.

Area of Law: Family Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Dismissal with prejudice; Remedy for a failure to respond to discovery
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 957 F.2d 555; 564 F.2d 236; 355 N.W.2d 477; 298 Minn. 542; 152 N.W.2d 364; 280 Minn. 202; 311 Minn. 236; 277 Minn. 278; 307 Minn. 497
Cited Statutes: 8B Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 2284; Minnesota Practice § 37.9; Minn. R. Civ. P. 37.04, R. 37.02
Date: 05/01/2010

Many cases suggest that dismissal with prejudice is a drastic remedy, and ordinarily will not be invoked unless the refusal to comply with discovery requests is deliberate; that is, generally speaking, an action will be dismissed because of a plaintiff’s failure to answer interrogatories only when the plaintiff displays gross inattention or carelessness.  See generally Wright & Miller, 8B Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 2284 (citing, e.g., Avionic Co., 957 F.2d 555, 558 (8th Cir. 1992)).  In actuality, though, as the following discussion shows, the standard is not always that high, and the court has broad discretion in determining when sanctions are warranted, as well as which sanction to impose.   

In determining whether to strike a claim for failure to respond to discovery, Minnesota courts consider the extent of the noncompliance, the reasons for the delay, the motivation for it, and whether the party being sanctioned engaged in a pattern of misconduct—but the primary consideration is the prejudicial effect on the parties.  See Heil v. Minn. Racing Comm’n, No. A-06-687 (Minn. Ct. App. Apr. 10, 2007) (citing Firoved v. Gen. Motors Corp., 277 Minn. 278, 283-84, 152 N.W.2d 364, 368-69 (1967); Williams v. Grand Lodge of Freemasonry AF & AM, 355 N.W.2d 477, 480 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984) (holding that dismissal with prejudice of the plaintiff’s case as a sanction for failure to appear at depositions was not error where the plaintiff had a history […]

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