Trial preparation is incredibly important. The process includes the initial pleadings, case management conferences, deposition testimony, pre-trial conferences, and of course, discovery. Discovery is the legal term referencing the formal investigation process in litigation. The main forms of discovery include depositions, interrogatories, requests to produce, requests to admit, non-party production subpoenas, independent medical examinations, site visits and product testing. Recently, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling to dismiss a personal injury lawsuit based upon the plaintiff’s failure to take appropriate actions during the discovery process.
The plaintiff, Brianna Horton, filed a personal injury lawsuit against Bria Monique Hinton. The lawsuit alleged that Hinton had hit Horton with her car. Horton claimed that Hinton’s actions caused her to suffer from emotional distress. Hinton then filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that Horton had failed to respond to requests for documents and interviews even after the trial court had entered an order compelling her to do so. However, upon becoming aware of Hinton’s motion to dismiss, Horton complied with the request and provided the requested documents. The motion to dismiss was denied.
A deposition of Brianna Horton was then scheduled by Bria Hinton’s attorneys. However, Brianna Horton canceled the deposition and was non-responsive to at least two requests to reschedule. Finally, a new date and time for the deposition was established by Hinton’s attorneys but neither Horton nor her representation appeared.
Hinton’s attorneys then attempted to use the court to compel Horton to be deposed. The court agreed and mandated that Horton make herself available for deposition within 21 days. This type, Horton’s counsel appeared at the deposition but Horton herself did not. The case was then dismissed.
At this point, Hinton requested a motion to compel, and the trial court directed Horton to attend a deposition within 21 days or risk having her case dismissed. This time, Horton’s attorney arrived for the deposition, but Horton did not, so Hinton filed another motion to dismiss.
However, it did not end there. Brianna Horton filed a post-judgment motion requesting the court to reconsider the dismissal. Horton claimed that her mother attempted to drive her to the rescheduled deposition but the traffic was heavy at the time. The trial court denied the motion to request, so Horton appealed the decision.
On appeal, the court referenced Rule 37(b), Alabama R. Civ. P., which, authorizes a trial court to dismiss an action as a sanction against a party who violates an order compelling him or her to provide or permit discovery [and] authorizes dismissal as a sanction for a party’s failure to answer interrogatories or requests for production or to attend his or her properly noticed deposition.
Ultimately, the court felt that Hornton was non-compliant and acted with a willful and deliberate disregard of reasonable and necessary requests for the efficient administration of justice.
Horton v. Hinton is a prime example of why strong legal representation is crucial to any civil litigation. If you are considering a civil suit for wrongful death or injury, no decision may be more important that the legal counsel you choose for representation. An experienced attorney can help you review your options.