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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE ET AL. v. METROPOLITAN HOCKEY CLUB

June 30, 1976

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE ET AL
v.
METROPOLITAN HOCKEY CLUB, INC., ET AL.



ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

[ 427 U.S. Page 639]

PER CURIAM.

This case arises out of the dismissal, under Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 37, of respondents' antitrust action against petitioners for failure to timely answer written interrogatories as ordered by the District Court. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the judgment of dismissal, finding that the District Court had abused its discretion. The question presented is whether the Court of Appeals was correct in so concluding. Rule 37(b)(2) provides in pertinent part as follows: S

"If a party... fails to obey an order to provide or permit discovery... the court in which the action is pending may make such orders in regard to the failure as are just, and among others the following:

 "(C) An order striking out pleadings or parts thereof, or staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed, or dismissing the action or proceeding

[ 427 U.S. Page 640]

     or any part thereof, or rendering a judgment by default against the disobedient party."I

This Court held in Societe Internationale v. Rogers, 357 U.S. 197, 212 (1958), that Rule 37 S

"should not be construed to authorize dismissal of [a] complaint because of petitioner's noncompliance with a pretrial production order when it has been established that failure to comply has been due to inability, and not to willfulness, bad faith, or any fault of petitioner."I

While there have been amendments to the Rule since the decision in Rogers, neither the parties, the District Court, nor the Court of Appeals suggested that the changes would affect the teachings of the quoted language from that decision.

The District Court, in its memorandum opinion directing that respondents' complaint be dismissed, summarized the factual history of the discovery proceeding in these words: S

"After seventeen months where crucial interrogatories remained substantially unanswered despite numerous extensions granted at the eleventh hour and, in many instances, beyond the eleventh hour, and notwithstanding several admonitions by the Court and promises and commitments by the plaintiffs, the Court must and does conclude that the conduct of the plaintiffs demonstrates the callous disregard of responsibilities counsel owe to the Court and to their opponents. The practices of the plaintiffs exemplify flagrant bad faith when after being expressly directed to perform an act by a date certain, viz., June 14, 1974, they failed to perform and compounded that noncompliance by waiting until five days afterwards before they filed any motions.

[ 427 U.S. Page 641]

     Moreover, this action was taken in the face of warnings that their failure to provide certain information could result in the imposition of sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37. If the sanction of dismissal is not warranted by the circumstances of this case, then the Court can envisage no set of ...


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