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The court's inherent authority to redress discovery misconduct is not displaced or limited by the sanctioning scheme of the Federal Rules. However, a finding that counsel's conduct constituted or was tantamount to bad faith would have to precede any sanctions under the court's inherent powers. The Supreme Court has cautioned restraint in the exercise of the inherent powers because of their very potency, and because inherent powers are shielded from direct democratic controls. Accordingly, whether default judgment or some lesser punitive sanction, such as an award of attorneys' fees, is imposed under the inherent powers, courts require evidence of misconduct, usually characterized as "contumacious," "fraudulent" or "bad faith," with some courts requiring that the misconduct be shown by "clear and convincing evidence.
This is a product liability case in which the plaintiff, Ryan W. Poole ("Poole"), has sued Textron, Inc. ("Textron") for alleged defects in a golf car, which resulted in serious injuries to him. The trial judge referred the undersigned all discovery disputes. By Memorandum and Order dated May 20, 1999, after a hearing, the court granted plaintiff's three discovery motions in part, ordered, inter alia, Textron to do substantial additional investigation to respond to Poole's discovery requests, and held sub curia the request for attorneys' fees or other sanctions pending further submissions and completion of the specified remedial actions. Textron filed with the trial judge objections to several of the discovery rulings, which the trial judge rejected, affirming the discovery rulings below. At the request of Textron, a further hearing was held on the request for attorneys' fees, costs and other sanctions, after which the parties submitted affidavits on the time expended and the appropriate hourly rate for the requested attorneys' fees.
Is an award of expenses including attorneys' fees or other sanction justified under the governing rules and case law?
The court determined that defendant's response to document requests violated its duty under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(g), was not substantially justified, and that an award of expenses was just under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37. The court found that, absent bad faith, sanctions were not justified beyond Rules 37(a)(4)(A), 26(g). The court then calculated the amount of sanctions using a Rule 11 analysis, and reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses.