California Motion for Terminating Sanctions

Motions for Terminating Sanctions in California

California Motion for Terminating Sanctions

Motions for terminating sanctions in California are an important tool that judges can use to compel litigants to comply with discovery rules when they are intentionally withholding information. If one of the parties in a lawsuit repeatedly uses stall tactics and refuses to follow court orders to share evidence and participate in discovery, it may be considered an abuse of the discovery process. In the most extreme cases, this kind of discovery misconduct can prompt the judge to impose case-terminating sanctions that involve dismissal of the case and even a default judgment against the offending party.

To learn more about what happens when motions for terminating sanctions are granted, keep reading this blog.

The Importance of Discovery Evidence in California Civil Cases

“Discovery” is a legal term that refers to the exchange of information between the parties in a legal dispute. It typically involves the sharing of evidence that is expected to be presented at trial. Discovery is a crucial part of the pre-trial stage in a civil court proceeding because it allows both sides to inspect evidence and to present their own answering evidence. When one party’s discovery responses are vague or non-existent, the other party cannot intelligently defend themselves at trial.

There are several methods of discovery, including depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas. The parties to a lawsuit are expected to participate meaningfully in discovery. If one party ignores the discovery rules and fails to let the other party know what evidence might be presented at trial, it can undermine the entire legal process.

What Are Terminating Sanctions?

A terminating sanction is a harsh remedy that courts may rely on when one party in a legal dispute is deliberately refusing to comply with a court order to respond to discovery. Examples of impermissible conduct that might warrant terminating sanctions include the following:

  • Repeatedly attempting to obtain materials that are outside the scope of discovery.
  • Not following proper procedures when trying to obtain discovery.
  • Intentionally employing discovery methods that cause the other party to suffer annoyance, embarrassment, or undue burden and expense.
  • Destruction of evidence.
  • Being evasive when responding to a discovery request.
  • Disobeying a court order to provide discovery.
  • Filing an unjustifiable motion to compel discovery.
  • Filing an unjustifiable motion to limit discovery.
  • Failing to make a reasonable and good faith attempt to resolve any dispute concerning discovery.

Other Types of Sanctions

Courts are expected to take great care and do everything possible to avoid the imposition of terminating sanctions, but sometimes the behavior of one of the parties to a lawsuit is so egregious that the judge is left with no choice. The judge may consider factors such as the deliberateness or intentionality of the litigant, the litigant’s history of noncompliance and discovery abuse, and whether a less severe sanction would be insufficient to compel the litigant to comply with discovery rules. In fact, courts will often choose to impose lesser sanctions first. These other types of sanctions include:

  • Monetary Sanctions: The court can fine the offending party.
  • Issue Sanctions: The court can order that certain facts in the case be “taken as established” at trial.
  • Evidence Sanctions: The court can prevent a party from introducing certain facts into evidence.
  • Contempt Sanctions: The court may charge the offending party with contempt of court.

Of course, terminating sanctions are the most severe because they can bring the lawsuit to an early conclusion. Ultimately, the court will consider the totality of circumstances when determining the appropriateness of terminating sanctions.

Requirements for Filing a Motion for Terminating Sanctions in California

One very important requirement in these cases is that the court must find that the offending party’s failure to comply with a discovery order was willful. If the litigant understood their discovery obligation and still failed to comply, their actions will likely be deemed willful. Moreover, the offending litigant will have the burden of showing that their failure was not intentional. Although the moving party has the initial burden of proof to establish willfulness, this merely requires a showing that the offending party failed to obey the court’s previous discovery orders. At that point, the burden of proof shifts to the offending party, who must establish that they had a valid excuse.

An additional procedural requirement is that the moving party who is seeking sanctions must provide notice to the offending party and/or their attorney before the court will impose terminating sanctions. This notice should include identification of all persons against whom the sanction is sought, as well as the specific type of sanction being sought.

What Happens When a Motion for Terminating Sanctions Is Granted?

California Code of Civil Procedure § 2023.030(d) grants courts the statutory authority to impose terminating sanctions in a number of ways:

  1. Striking out the pleadings of the party who has engaged in conduct that is a misuse of the discovery process.
  2. Staying the legal proceedings until the party obeys a previous order for discovery.
  3. Dismissing the complaint of the party who is being sanctioned.
  4. Rendering a default judgment against the party who is being sanctioned.

Case-Terminating Sanctions

Significantly, when a party in a lawsuit abuses the discovery process in a glaring way (e.g., persistently ignoring discovery requests), the judge may enter terminating sanctions against them and essentially dismiss their complaint. This is known as “case termination,” and it is the most extreme type of sanction that can be imposed by the court.

The justification for this severe penalty is that a party who fails to provide discovery has created a presumption that their claim lacks merit, particularly when their conduct is egregious and involves a chronic pattern of delay. Additionally, the severity of case-terminating sanctions may be justified as a strong deterrent for anyone who might be tempted to ignore discovery orders in future cases.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Civil Litigator Today

The Los Angeles civil litigators at Tauler Smith LLP have successfully represented countless clients in both federal courts and California state courts. Our experienced attorneys help clients throughout the litigation, including the pre-trial stage involving discovery requests, motions for terminating sanctions, and motions for summary judgment. Call 310-590-3927 or email us today to discuss your legal options.

Tauler Smith Wins Terminating Sanctions Motion

Tauler Smith Wins Motion for Terminating Sanctions

Tauler Smith Wins Terminating Sanctions Motion

In a recent employment law matter filed in Los Angeles, Tauler Smith LLP won a motion for terminating sanctions. Los Angeles litigation attorney Wendy Miele represented a media production company that was being sued by a former contractor who worked as a personal assistant for the company. When the plaintiff refused to respond to discovery requests and failed to comply with multiple court orders, our California civil litigators sought an order granting case-terminating sanctions against the plaintiff. Although courts are typically reluctant to approve motions that effectively end a case, the LA County Superior Court judge granted the motion for terminating sanctions and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. This was a major success for attorney Wendy Miele and the rest of the Tauler Smith litigation team.

For additional information about Tauler Smith LLP’s latest legal victory, keep reading.

Los Angeles Employment Lawyers Successfully Represent Company in Misclassification Case

Los Angeles litigator Wendy Miele represented an entertainment production company in an employment law matter. A former personal assistant for the company filed a civil suit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that she had been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of as an employee. This is an important distinction because California employment law imposes different requirements on employers based on the classification of workers. The worker’s lawsuit alleged that the company violated the California Labor Code, which protects wage earners and regulates their wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. The lawsuit also argued that she was entitled to recovery of attorney’s fees because the alleged misclassification constituted a violation of the unlawful prong of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), which explicitly prohibits any “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.”

Employment cases involving allegations of wage and hour violations are notoriously difficult to win on the defense side, especially at the pre-trial stage. That’s what makes this legal victory particularly noteworthy. In fact, the Tauler Smith LLP legal team has successfully defended three (3) of these cases so far this year. Our experienced California employment defense attorneys have also secured decisive victories for summary judgment in employment law disputes involving qui tam whistleblower claims, allegations of workplace retaliation, and allegations of wrongful termination.

Discovery Misconduct & Terminating Sanctions

The ex-worker in this case was required to produce certain documents in advance of trial, but the court had to intervene because she abused the discovery process by not turning over the requested evidence to opposing counsel. When the plaintiff committed discovery misconduct by continuing to use stall tactics and ultimately failing to provide the necessary discovery evidence in a timely manner as ordered by the court, the California employment attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP took aggressive action by filing a motion for terminating sanctions.

Other types of sanctions that the court could have imposed against the plaintiff for withholding information included issue sanctions, discovery sanctions, evidence sanctions, and contempt sanctions.

Los Angeles Civil Litigation Attorneys Win Motion for Terminating Sanctions

After hearing arguments from both sides, the Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted the motion. The court found that the plaintiff willfully refused to comply with Los Angeles Superior Court Local Rule 3.25, which deals with the case management conference and the settlement conference. The rule stipulates that counsel must serve and file lists of exhibits to be presented at trial, and that this must be done at least five (5) days prior to a final status conference. Failure to comply with Local Rule 3.25 can prompt the court to impose terminating sanctions, which is what happened in this case.

In this recent California employment law matter, the plaintiff failed to produce documents and did not respond adequately to discovery requests. This chronic pattern of delay is why the judge ultimately granted attorney Wendy Miele’s motion for terminating sanctions against the plaintiff. The end result of the Tauler Smith legal team’s aggressive representation of their client is that the opposing party’s complaint has been dismissed with prejudice. This was another successful outcome for Tauler Smith LLP.

After the ruling, Wendy Miele commented on the “salacious” nature of the case. Miele said, “There was a lot of inflammatory mudslinging of a personal nature by the opposing party against Tauler Smith’s client. We seized on the tactical strategy of terminating sanctions, which a court rarely grants but which were appropriate in this case. It was a very satisfying win for our client.

Contact Tauler Smith LLP Today for Legal Help with Your California Employment Claim

The litigation attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP represent both plaintiffs and defendants in California employment claims. Call 310-590-3927 or send an email to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced litigators.