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Blaga v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 7, 2015

Ioan Blaga and Petru Curescu, Plaintiffs,
v.
Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN ROBERT BLAKEY, District Judge.

This is an action for negligence stemming from a truck accident that occurred on September 17, 2010. Plaintiffs Ioan Blaga ("Blaga") and Petru Curescu ("Curescu") brought this action seeking damages for, among other things, lost wages, lost business and damage to credit. Over the course of several years, and despite multiple orders from this Court, Blaga has refused to provide documentary evidence substantiating his damage claims. As a result, the Court now considers Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.'s Sixth Motion to Compel (and/or to enforce previous court orders) against Ioan Blaga and for Entry of Sanctions. [171]. That motion is granted in part and denied in part as explained below.

I. Background

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [15] alleges that they were rear-ended by Ronald Kiser, an employee of Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. ("Old Dominion"), on September 17, 2010. Plaintiff Blaga asserted two claims: Count I for negligence causing personal injury, and Count III for negligence causing property damage. Id. at 1, 4. Count I does not specify damages sought, but is focused on Blaga's personal injury. Id. at 4. Count III alleges that Blaga suffered pecuniary injury due to the damage to his truck/trailer and the damage to his business. Id. at 5. In his prayer for relief, Blaga requests "compensatory damages in an amount according to proof at trial." Id. Despite this lack of specificity, it has become apparent throughout the course of discovery that Blaga is seeking damages for at least the following: lost wages, lost business, damage to his credit, personal injury, and damage to his truck.

On February 4, 2013, Old Dominion served its written requests for discovery. [21-1]. Relevant here, the requests sought information concerning certain financial accounts ( i.e., banks, loans, etc) belonging to the Plaintiffs. [21-5] at RFPs 88-92, 98, 120 & 123. This Court has granted, in large part, five motions to compel against the Plaintiff relating to these and other documents. See [21], [23]. [29], [110], [137]. The Court has also entered monetary sanctions against Blaga for his discovery failures. [48].

On August 21, 2014, the Court granted (in large part) Old Dominion's Fourth Motion to Compel against Blaga. [90] 4th MTC; [110] Order; [171-1] Transcript. The Court ordered that Blaga produce information regarding the "bank accounts and/or loan documents" identified in Section 7 of the Fourth Motion to Compel. [171-1] at 14:1-9. Section 7 read:

"Old Dominion's review of the eight-hundred-plus pages of documents Blaga belatedly produced after Old Dominion filed its Motion for Sanctions reveals the existence of several other accounts, loans and/or bank records that Blaga has never identified. [TCF Bank, Chase Bank (ending in-9679) and Wells Fargo (ending in-8448)]. Information and/or records for these accounts/loans, etc. (and any others that have not been previously disclosed) is responsive to Requests Nos. 88-92, 98, 120 & 123." [91] at 13-14.

In order to facilitate discovery, the Court ordered that Old Dominion serve specific requests for information concerning the accounts at issue in section 7. Id. Old Dominion served those requests on August 29, 2014, seeking:

"Any and all bank statements, loan documents, credit card records/documents and/or related records for Plaintiff and/or businesses owned and/or operated by Plaintiff, from 2005 through the present. This request includes, but is not limited to, accounts/loans/etc. with TCF Bank, Chase Bank (ending in -9679) and Wells Fargo (ending in -8448) that Old Dominion has previously identified." [171-3].

Blaga filed a response to those requests on or about September 23, 2014, but - despite the Court's order - he did not produce any of the requested documents. [171-4]. Blaga's response was signed by his counsel, and included an affidavit of completeness signed by Blaga himself. Id. There, Blaga swore that "Plaintiff's Response to Request for Production from Defendant Old Dominion Freight Lines, Inc. and the documentation provided therein are true and complete in substance and in fact, to the best of his knowledge... plaintiff has provided the documents he has been able to locate that are within his possession and control." Id.

Because Blaga did not produce any documents in response to this Court's 8/21/14 order, and because Old Dominion had evidence that at least three additional accounts existed, Old Dominion filed its Fifth Motion to Compel and/or Enforce Previous Orders on October 16, 2014. [116]. The Court held a hearing regarding the Fifth Motion to Compel on October 21, 2014. [171-5]. At the hearing, the Court noted that Blaga's affidavit of completeness was inadequate and added: "Mr. Blaga and Mr. Curescu are at the end of their rope in terms of moving this case forward, and they are the plaintiffs in this case. It is inexcusable for them to be playing games. And to be fair to Mr. Curescu, this appears primarily to be a Mr. Blaga problem. It's inexcusable to be playing games with discovery in a case that he brought. If he wants to bring a claim in federal court, then he's got to comply with the rules and the expectations which are to produce relevant, responsive documents that are necessary for him to pursue his claim and for them to defend against that claim. If he cannot do that, if he cannot produce documents that are necessary to assess his claim that he lost wages, that he lost business, then he's not going to have those claims to pursue." [171-5] at 11:5, 12 (emphasis added).

The Court generously granted Blaga another extension of time by which to comply with the previous discovery orders, and to produce the relevant documents concerning financial accounts. Id.

On November 1, 2014, Mr. Blaga signed another affidavit of completeness. [171-12] at 3. That statement read: "after a thorough and diligent search of all documents within his custody and control, Plaintiff has produced the documents requested for production from Defendant Old Dominions Freight Line, Inc. and the documentation provided is true and complete in substance and in fact, to the best of his knowledge." Id. Once again, he did not produce any additional documents.

At a hearing on November 12, 2014, the parties discussed Blaga's repeated failure to make the required production and the Court gave him until December 10, 2014 to do so. [171-6] at 10-18. The ...


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