Ignoring Court Orders and Deadlines Cost Plaintiffs

Here is just another example of why it is always important to comply with court orders and deadlines. While inmates at a correctional facility, plaintiffs were involved in an automobile accident during a work assignment transport. Plaintiffs filed suit against the driver of the automobile, as well as the driver’s employer, the Richwood Correctional Center (“RCC”).

Thereafter, the sheriff was unable to effect service on the driver, who as a result filed a declinatory exception for insufficiency of service of process. The court denied the exception, but ordered the plaintiffs to personally serve the driver with the lawsuit within 30 days. Despite the court’s order, plaintiffs failed to serve the driver over the course of the next four months, and the court ultimately dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims against the driver with prejudice. Moreover, plaintiffs failed to abide by a court order instructing them to respond to the defendants’ discovery requests. As a result, the court awarded attorney’s fees and costs to the defendants and dismissed plaintiffs’ entire case against the defendants with prejudice.

Plaintiffs unsuccessfully moved for a new trial, and thus appealed the dismissal of their case to the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, the trial court’s dismissal of the suit against the driver was upheld. The Second Circuit noted that although plaintiffs were warned that failure to serve the driver could result in dismissal, they failed to effectuate service for more than four months. With respect to plaintiffs’ failure to respond to discovery, the Second Circuit asserted that Article 1471 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure permits a court to strike pleadings or dismiss an action for failure to obey an order. The refusal to comply with court-ordered discovery is a serious matter, and trial judges must have severe sanctions available to deter litigants from flouting discovery orders. The trial court’s dismissal of the entire case was affirmed. This case is a cautionary tale providing yet another example why it is never a good idea to ignore court orders and deadlines.

Alcorn v. Duncan