More discovery fun time

Kiernan v Booth Mem. Med. Ctr., 2019 NY Slip Op 06596 [2d Dept. 2019]

“A party is not entitled to unlimited, uncontrolled, unfettered disclosure” (Geffner v Mercy Med. Ctr., 83 AD3d 998, 998; see McAlwee v Westchester Health Assoc., PLLC, 163 AD3d 547, 548). ” The supervision of disclosure and the setting of reasonable terms and conditions therefor rests within the sound discretion of the trial court and, absent an improvident exercise of that discretion, its determination will not be disturbed'” (Montalvo v CVS Pharm., Inc., 102 AD3d 842, 843, quoting Mattocks v White Motor Corp., 258 AD2d 628, 629 [citation omitted]). Here, the plaintiffs’ request for additional information and color photographs of certain Forest View personnel who worked on the floor where the decedent resided on February 5 and 6, 2008, was palpably improper because it was overbroad and unduly burdensome (see JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v Levenson, 149 AD3d 1053, 1055; Stepping Stones Assoc., L.P. v Scialdone, 148 AD3d 855, 856; Pesce v Fernandez, 144 AD3d 653, 655; Gilman & Ciocia, Inc. v Walsh, 45 AD3d 531). Accordingly, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in denying that branch of the plaintiffs’ motion which was to compel the production of such material.

Kiernan v Booth Mem. Med. Ctr., 2019 NY Slip Op 06597 [2d Dept. 2019]

“The determination whether to strike a pleading or to preclude evidence for failure to comply with court-ordered disclosure lies within the sound discretion of the court” (Palmieri v Piano Exch., Inc., 124 AD3d 611, 612; see Neenan v Quinton, 110 AD3d 967, 968). However, the drastic remedy of striking a pleading or even precluding evidence pursuant to CPLR 3126 should not be imposed absent a clear showing that the failure to comply with discovery demands or orders was willful and contumacious (see MacKenzie v City of New York, 125 AD3d 821, 822; Palmieri v Piano Exch., Inc., 124 AD3d at 612; Gutman v Cabrera, 121 AD3d 1042, 1043). Here, Forest View timely complied with the court-ordered discovery and adequately explained that it had previously disclosed the identity of the health aides and their employment statuses on September 14, 2017. Thus, there was no clear showing that Forest View engaged in any willful and contumacious noncompliance with regard to disclosure in this matter (see e.g. MacKenzie v City of New York, 125 AD3d at 822; Palmieri v Piano Exch., Inc., 124 AD3d at 612).

Discovery mid-trial (CPLR 3102(d), law of the case, and willful refusal

Matter of Michael R. v Amanda R., 2019 NY Slip Op 06454 [2d Dept. 2019]

A party may seek additional disclosure after trial commences only by permission of the trial court on notice (CPLR 3102[d]). Here, the father never sought permission for posttrial discovery. Nor do the father’s motion papers demonstrate any reason why he should have been permitted to pursue additional discovery more than a year after trial commenced. In view of this, and the fact that the mother faced contempt penalties if she were unable to present evidence about her ability to pay, the Support Magistrate improvidently exercised his discretion in “precluding” the mother from presenting evidence and testimony that he had already admitted into evidence at trial more than a year previously.

***

Third, contrary to the Family Court’s conclusion that the mother was also barred from objecting to the amount of arrears by the doctrine of law of the case, that doctrine is only applicable to “legal determinations that were necessarily resolved on the merits in a prior decision” (J.P. Morgan Sec., Inc. v Vigilant Ins. Co., 166 AD3d 1, 8 [1st Dept 2018] [emphasis added] [internal quotation marks omitted]). Since the mother’s earlier-filed objections were denied on procedural grounds, the application of the doctrine of the law of the case did not apply under the circumstances here.

Rosenberg & Estis, P.C. v Bergos, 18 AD3d 218 [1st Dept. 2005]

The record in this attorney fee dispute discloses that defendants willfully refused or simply failed to avail themselves of the opportunity to take plaintiff’s deposition prior to the deadline set forth in the preliminary conference stipulation, and willfully refused to obtain copies of documents that defense counsel had already inspected and tagged for copying. Under these circumstances, defendants’ motion to vacate the note of issue was properly denied since the certificate of readiness correctly represented that defendants had waived any right they had to additional discovery (cf. Munoz v 147 Corp., 309 AD2d 647, 648 [2003]; Ortiz v Arias, 285 AD2d 390 [2001]).

 

Discovery

O’Halloran v Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 2019 NY Slip Op 01318 [1st Dept. 2019]

The court providently exercised its discretion in granting in part plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery and ordering defendants to run searches of electronic mailboxes of defendants’ employees and to produce those documents responsive to plaintiffs’ requests (CPLR 3101[a]; 148 Magnolia, LLC v Merrimack Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 62 AD3d 486, 487 [1st Dept 2009]; see also Andon v 302-304 Mott St. Assoc., 94 NY2d 740, 745 [2000]; GoSMILE, Inc. v Levine, 112 AD3d 469 [1st Dept 2013]). The record demonstrates that plaintiff’s requests seek material and necessary information, and that her search terms, all of which were to be combined with her name or nickname or the name or nickname of a coworker she alleges was discriminated or retaliated against on similar grounds, would result in the disclosure of relevant evidence, and are reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of relevant information.

Plaintiff’s second Supplemental Request for Production of Documents, dated November 30, 2017, seeking all complaints, discrimination-related or not, involving defendant George Menduina’s conduct from 2010 to present, sought information material and necessary to this particular lawsuit because such information was relevant not only to whether Menduina, plaintiff’s supervisor, discriminated against plaintiff, but also to whether Menduina was more qualified than plaintiff to hold the very position that plaintiff alleges she was denied for discriminatory reasons.

Fowler v Buffa, 2019 NY Slip Op 01306 [1st Dept. 2019]

The trial court did not err in precluding a disability insurance form alleged to contain a statement against interest from defendant Anurag Shrivastava, M.D. The imposition of sanctions for discovery misfeasance is a matter better left to the sound discretion of the trial court (see Gomez v New York City Hous. Auth., 217 AD2d 110, 114 [1st Dept 1995]). CPLR 3101 provides that there shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, including a party’s own statements (see also Sands v News Am. Publ., 161 AD2d 30, 42 [1st Dept 1990]). Plaintiff’s disclosure of the document less than two days prior to trial was an unfair surprise for which no reasonable excuse was proffered (see Curbean v Kibel, 12 AD3d 206, 207 [1st Dept 2004]; Ward v Mehar, 264 AD2d 515, 516 [2d Dept 1999]).

3126 commensurate…and no further

Han v New York City Tr. Auth., 2019 NY Slip Op 00975 [1st Dept. 2019]

CPLR 3126 provides that if a party “refuses to obey an order for disclosure or wilfully fails to disclose information which the court finds ought to have been disclosed . . . , the court may make such orders with regard to the failure or refusal as are just.” It is within the motion court’s discretion to determine the nature and degree of the penalty (see Kihl v Pfeffer, 94 NY2d 118, 122 [1999]), and the sanction will remain undisturbed unless there has been a clear abuse of discretion (see Those Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London v Occidental Gems, Inc., 11 NY3d 843, 845 [2008]). The sanction should be “commensurate with the particular disobedience it is designed to punish, and go no further than that” (Patrick M. Connors, Practice Commentaries, McKinney’s Cons Laws of NY, Book 7B, CPLR C3126:8 at 497; see also Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v Global Strat Inc., 22 NY3d 877, 880 [2013]).

Social Media

Vasquez-Santos v Mathew, 2019 NY Slip Op 00541 [1st Dept. 2019]

Private social media information can be discoverable to the extent it “contradicts or conflicts with [a] plaintiff’s alleged restrictions, disabilities, and losses, and other claims” (Patterson v Turner Const. Co., 88 AD3d 617, 618 [1st Dept 2011]). Here, plaintiff, who at one time was a semi-professional basketball player, claims that he has become disabled as the result of the automobile accident at issue, such that he can no longer play basketball. Although plaintiff testified that pictures depicting him playing basketball, which were posted on social media after the accident, were in games played before the accident, defendant is entitled to discovery to rebut such claims and defend against plaintiff’s claims of injury. That plaintiff did not take the pictures himself is of no import. He was “tagged,” thus allowing him access to them, and others were sent to his phone. Plaintiff’s response to prior court orders, which consisted of a HIPAA authorization refused by Facebook, some obviously immaterial postings, and a vague affidavit claiming to no longer have the photographs, did not comply with his discovery obligations. The access to plaintiff’s accounts and devices, however, is appropriately limited in time, i.e., only those items posted or sent after the accident, and in subject matter, i.e., those items discussing or showing defendant engaging in basketball or other similar physical activities (see Forman v Henkin, 30 NY3d 656, 665 [2018]; see also Abdur-Rahman v Pollari, 107 AD3d 452, 454 [1st Dept 2013]).

Discovery

Harris v Kay, 2019 NY Slip Op 00044 [1st Dept. 2019]

The court did not abuse its discretion in striking the complaint, given plaintiff’s repeated, willful and contumacious refusals to provide discovery and to comply with court’s orders over an approximately eight-year period (see McHugh v City of New York, 150 AD3d 561, 562 [1st Dept 2017]; Fish & Richardson, P.C. v Schindler, 75 AD3d 219, 221-222 [1st Dept 2010]; see generally Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner Smith, Inc. v Global Strat Inc., 22 NY3d 877, 880 [2013]). Even if plaintiff’s response to defendants’ first set of interrogatories could be considered “timely” pursuant to the court’s August 28, 2013 order, despite that the interrogatories were served more than six years prior, the response certainly does not “evince[] a good-faith effort to address the requests meaningfully” (Kihl v Pfeffer, 94 NY2d 118, 123 [1999]).

Brown v Montefiore Med. Ctr., 2019 NY Slip Op 00226 [1st Dept. 2019]

The court’s September 28, 2015 order was predicated on the motion and cross motion by the defendants, the underlying issues of which had already been fully resolved by the parties’ so-ordered stipulation, dated August 4, 2015, issued after a preliminary conference. At the time of the court’s September 28th conditional preclusion order, there was no motion pending, and no request for any relief from the defendants. Given the circumstances, the court should have granted plaintiff’s motion to vacate the judgment. However, this in no way condones plaintiff’s counsel’s clearly dilatory behavior, which, based on the pattern evinced by the record, was willful.

The bold is mine.

Hopkins v City of New York, 2019 NY Slip Op 00388 [1st Dept. 2019]

The parties suspended scheduling of the deposition of the City’s witness on January 14, 2014 when plaintiff withdrew its request for an EBT while other discovery disputes were resolved. Thus, the court orders prior to January 14, 2014 do not support the imposition of sanctions. We agree with Supreme Court that the City’s noncompliance with subsequent disclosure orders did not give rise to an inference of willful and contumacious conduct. Given that there does not appear to be an actual prejudice to plaintiff, the court was within its discretion to provide defendant with one additional opportunity to submit to depositions before striking its answer (Figueroa v City of New York, 129 AD3d 596, 597 [1st Dept 2015]).

We further note that at the time this motion was pending, the City offered to produce the witness at issue.

Williams v Suttle, 2019 NY Slip Op 00163 [2d Dept. 2019]

The drastic remedy of dismissing a complaint for a plaintiff’s failure to comply with court-ordered discovery is warranted where a party’s conduct is shown to be willful and contumacious (see Harris v City of New York, 117 AD3d 790Almonte v Pichardo, 105 AD3d 687, 688; Arpino v F.J.F. & Sons Elec. Co., Inc., 102 AD3d 201, 210). The willful and contumacious character of a party’s conduct can be inferred from either (1) the repeated failure to respond to demands or comply with court-ordered discovery, without a reasonable excuse for these failures, or (2) the failure to comply with court-ordered discovery over an extended period of time (see Candela v Kantor, 154 AD3d 733, 734; Pesce v Fernandez, 144 AD3d 653, 654; Gutman v Cabrera, 121 AD3d 1042, 1043; Arpino v F.J.F. & Sons Elec. Co., Inc., 102 AD3d at 210).

Here, the willful and contumacious character of the plaintiffs’ actions can be inferred from their repeated failures to comply with the defendant’s notices to appear for depositions and the deadlines set forth in the compliance conference orders over an extended period of time (see Wolf v Flowers, 122 AD3d 728, 729; Matone v Sycamore Realty Corp., 87 AD3d 1113, 1114). Furthermore, the plaintiffs failed to provide an adequate explanation for their repeated failures to comply with court-ordered discovery. While the plaintiffs established that the medical condition of Lawrey, who is a resident of the State of Georgia, required her to avoid travel and that her deposition could be conducted via live video conferencing (see Duncan v 605 Third Ave., LLC, 49 AD3d 494, 496), they did not provide any explanation for their failure to produce Williams, a resident of Westchester County, for a deposition.

Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contention, the defendant, who had first noticed depositions after serving her answer, had priority of depositions (see CPLR 3106[a]; Scalone v Phelps Mem. Hosp. Ctr., 184 AD2d 65, 76-77), and the filing of an amended complaint did not automatically stay discovery.

In any event, when the plaintiffs failed to appear for depositions within the time specified in the conditional order of dismissal, the conditional order became absolute (see Corex-SPA v Janel Group of N.Y., Inc., 156 AD3d at 602; Wei Hong Hu v Sadiqi, 83 AD3d 820, 821; Matter of Denton v City of Mount Vernon, 30 AD3d 600). To be relieved of the adverse impact of the conditional order directing dismissal of the complaint, the plaintiffs were required to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for their failure to appear for depositions and that their cause of action was potentially meritorious (see Gibbs v St. Barnabas Hosp., 16 NY3d 74, 80; Kirkland v Fayne, 78 AD3d 660, 661; Lerner v Ayervais, 16 AD3d 382Smith v Lefrak Org., 96 AD2d 859, affd 60 NY2d 828). The plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for their failure to appear for depositions on or before February 29, 2016.

3126

Shohat v Suky, 2018 NY Slip Op 08548 [1st Dept. 2018]

Defendants engaged in willful and contumacious conduct warranting the penalty of striking their answer (seeCPLR 3126; McHugh v City of New York, 150 AD3d 561 [1st Dept 2017]). They failed to comply with several court orders directing compliance with outstanding discovery requests by dates certain. The discovery responses they served only after plaintiff moved to strike consisted almost entirely of objections.

Spivey v City of New York, 2018 NY Slip Op 08557 [1st Dept. 2018]

The default on which the dismissal was based — plaintiff’s failure to respond to a motion to dismiss under CPLR 3126, allegedly due to his counsel’s mis-calendaring of the return date — was not an isolated mistake but part of a pervasive pattern of neglect in prosecuting this action evident from the record, including his persistent failure to satisfy discovery obligations for about a year and a half. As part of a pattern of “intentional[] and repeated[] fail[ure] to attend to [his obligations]” (Imovegreen, LLC v Frantic, LLC, 139 AD3d 539, 540 [1st Dept 2016]), the law-office failure leading to the default was not excusable.

Suarez v Dameco Indus., Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 08576 [1st Dept. 2018]

The motion court providently exercised its discretion in granting plaintiff’s motion to strike Dameco’s answer for willful failure to comply with discovery orders (see CPLR 3126). Dameco’s counsel offered a barebones affirmation disclosing that Dameco was now defunct and claiming that counsel’s attempts to contact unnamed former officers of Dameco through an investigative service had been unsuccessful, which was insufficient to establish good-faith efforts to comply (see Cavota v Perini Corp., 31 AD3d 362, 364 [2d Dept 2006]; Hutson v Allante Carting Corp., 228 AD2d 303 [1st Dept 1996]; see also Reidel v Ryder TRS, Inc., 13 AD3d 170, 171 [1st Dept 2004]; compare Lee v 13th St. Entertainment LLC, 161 AD3d 631 [1st Dept 2018]). Although Dameco was apparently still in business when the action was commenced, defense counsel provided no explanation for Dameco’s failure to preserve any records relating to its repair, service, and maintenance of the elevator that allegedly caused plaintiff’s injuries, including inspection records that Dameco was statutorily required to prepare. In light of plaintiff’s showing of willful failure to comply, and since the complete absence of records impedes plaintiff’s ability to prove his case, the sanction of striking Dameco’s answer was appropriate under the circumstances.

Aiken v Liotta, 2018 NY Slip Op 08621 [2d Dept. 2018]

We agree with the Supreme Court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to enforce certain orders of preclusion against the plaintiff Rosemary Wiltshire pursuant to CPLR 3126 and, thereupon, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted by that plaintiff. Despite Wiltshire’s delays, she substantially complied with the relevant discovery demands and orders, and the defendant failed to demonstrate that the delays were the product of willful and [*2]contumacious conduct (see Brannigan v Christie Overhead Door, 144 AD3d 959, 960; McDermott v Bahnatka, 83 AD3d 1014, 1015; LOP Dev., LLC v ZHL Group, Inc., 78 AD3d 1020, 1020; Jenkins v Proto Prop. Servs., LLC, 54 AD3d 726Zouev v City of New York, 32 AD3d 850, 851; Passarelli v National Bank of Westchester, 81 AD2d 635, 636).

Conditional Order 3126

McIntosh v New York City Partnership Dev. Fund Co., Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 07303 [2d Dept. 2018]

Contrary to the plaintiffs’ contention, under the language of the conditional order of preclusion, the plaintiffs’ failure to respond to outstanding discovery demands from even a single other party would result in the plaintiffs being precluded from presenting any evidence of damages at trial. The plaintiffs did not meet their burden to avoid the adverse effect of the conditional order of preclusion, as they did not “demonstrate a reasonable excuse for the failure to comply with the order and the existence of a potentially meritorious” cause of action (Naiman v Fair Trade Acquisition Corp., 152 AD3d at 780).

3126 [the records did not exist]

Tanriverdi v United Skates of Am., Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 05885 [2nd Dept 2018]

As a result of the plaintiffs' failure to disclose salon appointment records dating back to February 2011, the conditional order became absolute (see Wilson v Galicia Contr. & Restoration Corp., 10 NY3d 827, 830; Mars v Sharp, 90 AD3d 865, 865-866; Zouev v City of New York, 32 AD3d 850, 850). To be relieved of the adverse impact of the conditional order, the plaintiffs were required to demonstrate a reasonable excuse and a potentially meritorious cause of action (see Gibbs v St. Barnabas Hosp., 16 NY3d 74, 79-83; Corex-SPA v Janel Group of N.Y., Inc., 156 AD3d 599, 602; Zouev v City of New York, 32 AD3d at 850-851). Here, in response to the defendant's motion, the plaintiffs submitted evidence indicating that the conditional order of dismissal directed them to produce appointment records that did not exist, thereby demonstrating a reasonable excuse for their failure to produce the records in question (see Smith v County of Nassau, 138 AD3d 726, 728; Gottfried v Maizel, 68 AD3d 1060, 1061). The plaintiffs additionally demonstrated a potentially meritorious cause of action (see Miskanic v Roller Jam USA, Inc., 71 AD3d 1102, 1102-1103). Consequently, the Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint.

Contrary to the defendant's contention, CPLR 3126 did not otherwise justify the Supreme Court's determination to dismiss the complaint. "Actions should be resolved on their merits whenever possible, and the drastic remedy of striking a pleading should not be employed without a clear showing that the failure to comply with court-ordered discovery was willful and contumacious" (Nunez v Laidlaw, 150 AD3d 1124, 1125; see Zakhidov v Boulevard Tenants Corp., 96 AD3d 737, 739). The defendant failed to make a clear showing that the plaintiffs' conduct was willful and contumacious, since, among other things, the plaintiffs complied with many discovery demands and substantially complied with the court's disclosure orders once the parties resumed discovery after failing to reach a settlement agreement. The plaintiffs' conduct did not warrant dismissal (see Nunez v Laidlaw, 150 AD3d at 1126; McDermott v Bahnatka, 83 AD3d 1014, 1015; LOP Dev., LLC v ZHL Group, Inc., 78 AD3d 1020, 1020).

3126

Chowdhury v Hudson Val. Limousine Serv., LLC, 2018 NY Slip Op 04526 [2d Dept 2018]

"The nature and degree of a penalty to be imposed under CPLR 3126 for discovery violations is addressed to the court's discretion" (Crupi v Rashid, 157 AD3d 858, 859; see Dimoulas v Roca, 120 AD3d 1293, 1295; Arpino v F.J.F. & Sons Elec., Co., Inc., 102 AD3d 201, 210; Zakhidov v Boulevard Tenants Corp., 96 AD3d 737, 738). "The general rule is that the court will impose a sanction commensurate with the particular disobedience it is designed to punish and go no further than that" (Crupi v Rashid, 157 AD3d at 859; see Zakhidov v Boulevard Tenants Corp., 96 AD3d at 739; Patrick M. Connors, Practice Commentaries, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 7B, C3126:8). This Court is vested with corresponding power to substitute its own discretion for that of the motion court, even in the absence of abuse (see Those Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London v Occidental Gems, Inc., 11 NY3d 843, 845; Household Fin. Realty Corp. of NY v Cioppa, 153 AD3d 908, 910; Lewis v John, 87 AD3d 564, 565).

In light of Koonin's failure to comply with multiple court orders and so-ordered stipulations directing him to appear for the EBT, the Supreme Court properly concluded that Koonin engaged in willful and contumacious conduct (see Riccuiti v Consumer Prod. Servs., LLC, 71 AD3d 754Carabello v Luna, 49 AD3d 679, 680). However, under the circumstances, it was an improvident exercise of discretion to grant those branches of the motion and cross motion which were to strike Koonin's answer in light of the fact that the court also granted those branches of the motion and cross motion which were to preclude Koonin from offering any evidence at the time of trial (see e.g. Hasan v 18-24 Luquer St. Realty, LLC, 144 AD3d 631, 633; Piatek v Oak Dr. Enters., Inc., 129 AD3d 811, 812).

Cannon v 111 Fulton St. Condominium, Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 04523 [2d Dept 2018]

Here, the so-ordered stipulation did not set a time, date, or place for the plaintiff's deposition, instead stating merely that the plaintiff's deposition was to be held "on or before" March 16, 2015, "at a time and location to be agreed upon." In light of this, the defendants' minimal assertion that the plaintiff failed to appear, which relied on the hearsay assertion of an unnamed employee of defense counsel, was insufficient to demonstrate that the plaintiff willfully and contumaciously violated the so-ordered stipulation (see Yong Soon Oh v Hua Jin, 124 AD3d 639, 641; Deer Park Assoc. v Town of Babylon, 121 AD3d at 740; Vaccaro v Weinstein, 117 AD3d 1033, 1034; Orgel v Stewart Tit. Ins. Co., 91 AD3d 922, 923). Similarly, the defendants did not allege in [*3]their motion that the plaintiff had failed to provide the outstanding written discovery that was included in the so-ordered stipulation. Therefore, since the defendants failed to demonstrate that the plaintiff knew when and where to appear for her deposition, there was no evidence of ongoing willful or contumacious conduct (see PNC Bank, N.A. v Campbell, 142 AD3d 1148, 1149). Accordingly, we disagree with the Supreme Court's determination to grant that branch of the defendant's motion which was to preclude the plaintiff from offering evidence at trial.