Ignoring a Court Deadline Can Be Costly

Partner Millie Baumbusch was counsel in a recent Georgia case in which the opposing party faced severe sanctions for missing deadlines set by the court. The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the Superior Court of Cobb County, seeking a determination by that court regarding the title and security interest in a house. Ms. Baumbusch represented the defendants. During the course of litigation, the defendants served discovery requests on the plaintiffs, seeking documents related to the plaintiffs’ claims in the lawsuit. When the plaintiffs failed to produce the requested documents, Ms. Baumbusch filed a motion with the court to compel the plaintiffs to do so. The plaintiffs did not file any response to the motion.The court granted the motion to compel, setting a deadline by which the plaintiffs had to produce documents and ordering the Plaintiffs pay the attorneys’ fees and costs the defendants had incurred in filing their motion to compel the discovery responses. Despite the court’s order the plaintiffs still did not produce any documents before the deadline set by the court or any time thereafter. Ms. Baumbusch then filed a motion for sanctions requesting that the court dismiss the plaintiffs’ lawsuit in its entirety for their failure to obey the order on discovery. Again, the plaintiffs ignored the motion failing, to file any response. The court granted defendants’ motion for sanctions; it dismissed the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, prohibited plaintiffs from re-filing, and ordered the plaintiffs to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs the defendants incurred in filing their motion for sanctions.

In litigation, all parties and their attorneys must abide by statutes, court rules, and court orders that govern how lawsuits are conducted. Failure to do so can result in sanctions being imposed on the parties, on their attorneys, or on both. Sanctions can range from an admonishment by the judge from the bench, to the payment of some or all of the attorneys’ fees incurred by the complaining party, to the ultimate sanction – dismissal of a party’s lawsuit. Dismissal of the lawsuit is an extreme sanction that is rarely imposed, but it is justified under Georgia law if a party’s actions demonstrate a pattern of non-compliance with court procedures and orders. In this case, the plaintiffs’ failure to respond to pleadings and failure to obey the order to produce documents proved very costly.

At Gaslowitz Frankel, we adhere to the highest standards of professional responsibility. As experienced litigators, we are very knowledgeable about the many statutes, rules, and deadlines that control how lawsuits proceed. And if other parties or attorneys in a lawsuit fail to comply with proper procedures, we will seek redress for our clients as appropriate.