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Discretion to Impose “Rather Harsh” Sanctions

Posted by James Juo | Dec 07, 2023 | 0 Comments

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(f)(1)(C) allows a court to issue any just order if a party or its attorney fails to obey a scheduling or other pretrial order. Rule 16(f)(2) also requires a court to award reasonable fees “incurred because of any noncompliance with [Rule 16], unless the noncompliance was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(f)(2). Rule 37(b)(2)(A) also sets forth permissible sanctions. The court has discretion to fashion appropriate remedies.

The Third Circuit recently held that a Pennsylvania district court had “acted withing its discretion” in sanctioning a lawyer who violated a scheduling order by filing untimely evidence in a patent dispute, even though imposing sanctions “was a rather harsh remedy for defying the Scheduling Order.” Medical Tech. Associates II Inc. v. Rausch, Nos. 23-1129 & 23-2095 (3d Cir. Dec. 6, 2023) (not precedential).

In connection with a hearing on a motion to compel arbitration, the Court had issued an order entitled “Order Re: Scheduling” regarding post-hearing submissions which set forth deadlines and limitations on submitting post-hearing fact testimony. Both parties later notified the district court that they did not intend to provide additional factual testimony, but the lawyer for the Plaintiff then filed an eight-page brief that sought to explain (1) Plaintiff's decision to not present such testimony and (2) Plaintiff's views on the burden of proof to plead fraud and certain aspects of the record. Attached to the brief were ten exhibits totaling fifty-three pages that contained pre-suit correspondence between counsel, arguing that these documents answered questions that the district court had posed during the hearing and telephone conference.

Defendants objected to the sixty-one-page submission, arguing that it violated the Scheduling Order and sought to present exhibits that Defendants had not been able to address because they were not identified previously in connection with the hearing.

The Court found that the district court was “well within its discretion to impose sanctions” including ordering the attorney to “personally pay” the Defendant's attorney nearly $6,700 for the attorneys' fees incurred, and for the Plaintiff's lawyer to attend six hours of continuing legal education courses on the subject of federal practice and procedure.

The Court observed that “by attaching . . . new exhibits, Plaintiff is clearly seeking to introduce new facts” which “simultaneously (1) violated the Court's directive permitting only witness testimony, (2) could have blocked Defendants from being able to respond to the new exhibits and/or led to a new round of briefing, defeating the Court's express desire to limit such briefing, and (3) led to an unnecessary expenditure of party and Court resources.”

Thomas P. Howard, LLC litigates nationwide including in Colorado.

About the Author

James Juo

James Juo is an experienced intellectual property attorney. He has successfully litigated various intellectual property disputes involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. He also has counseled clients on the scope and validity of patent and trademark rights.


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