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Plata v. Eureka Locker, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

May 7, 2014

LUIS A. PLATA, Plaintiff,



This matter comes before the Court for a Report and Recommendation on Defendant Eureka Locker, Inc.'s (Eureka Locker) Rule 37(b)(2) Motion for Sanctions or Alternatively, to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 41(b) (d/e 36) (Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the Motion should be ALLOWED in part.


Plaintiff Luis A. Plata brought this action against his former employer Defendant Eureka Locker alleging employment discrimination based on Plata's Hispanic national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count I), and a supplemental claim for retaliation for exercising his rights under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act (Count II). First Amended Complaint (d/e 9). Eureka Locker moved to dismiss Count I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count I of the First Amended Complaint (d/e 11) (Motion to Dismiss). After resolution of the Motion to Dismiss, the following claims remain: (a) in Count I, Eureka Locker violated Title VII by (1) failing to provide Plata and other Hispanics with first aid kits and gloves to protect against infection, and (2) denying Plata medical treatment after being injured on the job; and (b) in Count II, Eureka Locker wrongfully discharged Plata in retaliation because he exercised his rights under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act after being injured on the job and seeking medical attention for those injuries. Order entered April 3, 2013 (d/e 20), at 9-10.

On June 12, 2013, Eureka Locker served interrogatories and a request to produce documents on Plata. Plata served responses on September 18, 2013. Eureka Locker found the responses to be inadequate. Eureka Locker unsuccessfully attempted to resolve this dispute without resort to the Court. On October 25, 2013, Eureka Locker filed a Motion to Compel. Defendant's Motion to Compel Responses to Written Discovery (d/e 29) (Motion to Compel). Eureka Locker asserted that Plata's responses to its discovery requests were materially insufficient.

On November 5, 2013, Plata's counsel moved to withdraw. Motion to Withdraw (d/e 31). Plata's counsel asked to withdraw because he and Plata, "have formed an impasse in their relationship due to non-compliance with discovery requests...." Motion to Withdraw, at 1. On November 6, 2013, this Court entered a Text Order allowing the Motion to Withdraw. Plata has proceeded pro se in this case since that time.

On January 7, 2014, this Court allowed the Motion to Compel. The Court ordered Plata to complete discovery as follows:

Plaintiff is ordered to provide full and complete answers to its interrogatories numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21. Plaintiff is further ordered to produce all of his medical records dating to the year 2000, all records reflecting attempts to find employment, and the complete files for any workers' compensation claims he filed against Eureka Locker or any other previous employer. Pro se Plaintiff to comply with this Order by 2/3/2014.

Text Order entered January 7, 2014 (Discovery Order).

Plata provided supplemental responses to the interrogatories on January 29, 2014. Motion, Exhibit 6, Plaintiff's Responses to the Defendant's Fist Set of Interrogatories to Plaintiff (January 2014 Answers to Interrogatories). Plata submitted objections to the request to produce documents, and did not produce the documents identified in the Discovery Order. Eureka Locker was not satisfied with the responses, and attempted to resolve the matter with Plata directly. This attempt was unsuccessful. Eureka Locker then filed the Motion. In response to the Motion, Plata produced a number of documents, including medical records and documents demonstrating his efforts to secure additional records from the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Plaintiff's Memorandum and Response to Defendant's Motion for Sanctions (d/e 40) (Response), Attachments.


Eureka Locker moves to dismiss this case as a sanction for Plata's failure to comply with the Discovery Order. A party may be sanctioned if he fails to obey a Court order to provide or permit discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2). Dismissal is the appropriate sanction under Rule 37(b)(2), "when there is a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct, or when less drastic sanctions have proven unavailing.'" Maynard v. Nygren , 332 F.3d 462, 467 (7th Cir. 2003). A sanction of dismissal for failure to comply with discovery may also be appropriate upon a finding of willfulness, bad faith, or fault. Id .; see Collins v. Illinois , 554 F.3d 693, 696 (7th Cir. 2009). A discovery sanction imposed must be "proportionate to the circumstances surrounding a party's failure to comply with discovery rules." Melendez v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co. , 79 F.3d 661, 672 (7th Cir. 1996).

In this case, the Court finds fault with Plata's response to the Discovery Order. Plata's January 2014 Answers to Interrogatories were substantially similar to the ones that the Court previously found to be deficient. Compare Motion, Exhibit 5, Plaintiff's Second Response to Defendant's Interrogatories, with Motion, Exhibit 6, January 2014 Answers to Interrogatories. Plata also did not produce documents identified in the Discovery Order.

Considering all the circumstances, however, Plata did not act willfully or in bad faith, and further, the information before the Court does not establish a record of delay or contumacious conduct. Plata produced medical records in his Response and has attempted to secure additional documents from relevant state agencies to comply with the Discovery Order. Response, Attachments. The January 2014 Answers to Interrogatories also contain some relevant information. Plata states that Eureka Locker's President Scott Bittner discriminated against Hispanic employees by denying them medical treatment for injuries suffered at work. See January 2014 Answers to Interrogatories, Answer to Interrogatory 8 ("Bittner... denies first aid to mexicans...."). Plata names another Hispanic employee, Alex Plata, whom he claimed was discriminated against in the provision of medical treatment in that they both were not allowed to return to work after surgery. Id., Answer to Interrogatory 1. Plata also names several similarly situated "Caucasian" employees that he claims were injured at work, received medical treatment without ...

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