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Bell v. Andy's Car Company

April 14, 2009

RENZER BELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANDY'S CAR COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Ellis, United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On February 2, 2009, this Court ordered pro se Plaintiff Bell to show cause why his case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute by impeding the discovery process. This order was precipitated by Defendant's motion for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule 37(b)(2)(A) for Bell's failure to file adequate answers in response to the Court's order that he answer outstanding deposition questions. The approximately twenty-four questions at issue had been identified by Defendant and contained in a document titled "Schedule A." Also in Schedule A is a category marked as "Evasive Answers" in which Defendant presents deposition testimony wherein it alleges Bell deliberately responded in an evasive and indirect manner. Defendant contends that Bell "has persisted in his practice of either refusing to provide answers and/or to provide evasive and incomplete answers to the defendant's deposition questions, . . . ." (Affirmation in Supp. of Def.'s Notice of Mot. for Sanctions Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37, Jeffrey M. Rosenblum, Dec. 15, 2008, ¶ 3.)

By affidavit dated February 13, 2009, Bell responds to this Court's order to show cause and seeks clarification. Bell asserts that he "understood [his] obligation to be to answer the [20-25 unanswered deposition] questions objected to and identified by the defendant's counsel on or around September 9, 2008[,]" and that he believed his production "was consistent with the spirit and letter of the instructions of this Court . . . ." (Bell Decl., Feb. 13, 2009, ¶¶ 11, 12.)

As an initial matter, the Court notes that the provision for deposition upon written questions was designed to minimize expense in the completion of discovery. Because the Defendant would not have an opportunity to ask follow-up questions, it was imperative that Bell provide answers which reasonably addressed the context in which the questions were posed. Therefore, Bell could not discharge his obligations by one word answers or partial responses. The following non-exhaustive list tracks particular deposition questions and Bell's answers that Defendant found problematic:

1) Question: Were there other members beside yourself of Tam-Rin Privileges, L.L.C.?*fn1 (Dep. Tr. at 41:21-25.)

Bell's Answer: I do not recall if there were other members of Tam-Rin Privileges, L.L.C. beside myself. (Pl.'s Answers to Unanswered Deposition Questions ("Pl.'s Ans."), Nov. 19, 2008 at 1.)

Problem: This answer fails to present any useful information. While it technically answers the question, Defendant is left with no way to ascertain what individual or individuals shared in proceeds directed to Tam-Rin Privileges, L.L.C.

2) Question: Are you presently in business, the business of acting as a broker in the . . . purchase and sale of cars?

A: I don't, I don't know.

Q: You don't know. . . . Do you earn your own living, Mr. Bell? (Dep. Tr. at 52:6-18.)

Bell's Answer: In a manner of speaking, yes. (Pl.'s Ans. at 2.)

Problem: This answer provides no useful information. Bell does not explain the rather dubious phrase "in a manner of speaking," which appears to be designed to annoy rather than enlighten.

3) Question: Now, do you have any cases presently pending in any other state beside New ...


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