Civil Litigation 101: Maryland Rule 2-433. Sanctions.

In my previous Civil Litigation 101 blog discussing Maryland Rule 2-432 – Motions Upon Failure to Provide Discovery, I noted that Maryland courts do NOT like when parties to a lawsuit fail to play by the rules. When a party fails: (1) to attend a deposition; (2) to provide Answers to Interrogatories and/or Responses to a Request for Production of Documents as required by the Maryland Rules; the opposing party may file for immediate sanctions Motion without first filing a Motion to Compel Discovery pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-432.

Maryland Rule 2-433 provides:

Rule 2-433. Sanctions

(a) For certain failures of discovery. Upon a motion filed under Rule 2-432 (a), the court, if it finds a failure of discovery, may enter such orders in regard to the failure as are just, including one or more of the following:

(1) An order that the matters sought to be discovered, or any other designated facts shall be taken to be established for the purpose of the action in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order;

(2) An order refusing to allow the failing party to support or oppose designated claims or defenses, or prohibiting that party from introducing designated matters in evidence; or

(3) An order striking out pleadings or parts thereof, or staying further proceeding until the discovery is provided, or dismissing the action or any part thereof, or entering a judgment by default that includes a determination as to liability and all relief sought by the moving party against the failing party if the court is satisfied that it has personal jurisdiction over that party. If, in order to enable the court to enter default judgment, it is necessary to take an account or to determine the amount of damages or to establish the truth of any averment by evidence or to make an investigation of any matter, the court may rely on affidavits, conduct hearings or order references as appropriate, and, if requested, shall preserve to the plaintiff the right of trial by jury.

Instead of any order or in addition thereto, the court, after opportunity for hearing, shall require the failing party or the attorney advising the failure to act or both of them to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, caused by the failure, unless the court finds that the failure was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.

(b) For loss of electronically stored information. Absent exceptional circumstances, a court may not impose sanctions under these Rules on a party for failing to provide electronically stored information that is no longer available as a result of the routine, good-faith operations of an electronic information system.

(c) For failure to comply with order compelling discovery. If a person fails to obey an order compelling discovery, the court, upon motion of a party and reasonable notice to other parties and all persons affected, may enter such orders in regard to the failure as are just, including one or more of the orders set forth in section (a) of this Rule. If justice cannot otherwise be achieved, the court may enter an order in compliance with Rule 15-206 treating the failure to obey the order as a contempt.

(d) Award of expenses. If a motion filed under Rule 2-432 or under Rule 2-403 is granted, the court, after opportunity for hearing, shall require the party or deponent whose conduct necessitated the motion or the party or the attorney advising the conduct or both of them to pay to the moving party the reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining the order, including attorney’s fees, unless the court finds that the opposition to the motion was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.

If the motion is denied, the court, after opportunity for hearing, shall require the moving party or the attorney advising the motion or both of them to pay to the party or deponent who opposed the motion the reasonable expenses incurred in opposing the motion, including attorney’s fees, unless the court finds that the making of the motion was substantially justified or that other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.

If the motion is granted in part and denied in part, the court may apportion the reasonable expenses incurred in relation to the motion among the parties and persons in a just manner.

If a court decides to enter sanctions against a party, the consequences can be devastating to that party’s case. For example, the party against whom sanctions may be entered could potentially be prohibited from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses or from introducing certain matters into evidence. Even more devastating is the fact that a court could potentially enter a judgment by default that includes a determination as to liability and all relief sought by the moving party against the failing party.

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