Judge: Serena R. Murillo, Case: 21STCV27810, Date: 2023-03-07 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 21STCV27810    Hearing Date: March 7, 2023    Dept: 29



Motion for Terminating Sanctions Against Defendant Patricia Cecilia Pina filed by Plaintiff Jordyn A. Murray Diaz is GRANTED.



              This is action arises from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on November 21, 2020.


              On July 29, 2021, Plaintiff Jordyn A. Murray Diaz (“Plaintiff”) initiated this action against Defendant Patricia Cecilia Pina (“Defendant”), asserting the following causes of action: (1) motor vehicle negligence; and (2) general negligence.


              On September 8, 2022, this Court granted Plaintiff’s motions to compel Defendant’s responses to form interrogatories, special interrogatories, request for production of documents and to deem matters in request for admissions admitted. (9/8/2022 Minute Order.) The Court ordered Defendant to provide verified responses without objections to the discovery within 30 days. (Id.) The additionally ordered Defendant and counsel of record to pay monetary sanctions in the amount of $1,092, jointly and severally, within 30 days. (Id.)


              On November 17, 2022, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for terminating sanctions on the ground that Defendant has filed to abide by the Court’s September 8, 2022 order, which was originally heard on December 14, 2022.


              This matter was continued to February 10, 2022 for further briefing. Thereafter, in the Court’s discretion, it was continued once more to March 7, 2022 for additional briefing regarding the status of discovery.


Legal Standard


              CCP section 2023.030 provides that, "[t]o the extent authorized by the chapter governing any particular discovery method..., the court, after notice to any affected party, person, or attorney, and after opportunity for hearing, may impose... [monetary, evidence, and terminating] sanctions against anyone engaging in conduct that is a misuse of the discovery process...." CCP section 2023.010 provides that "[m]issues of the discovery process include, but are not limited to, the following:... (d) Failing to respond or to submit to an authorized method of discovery.... (g) Disobeying a court order to provide discovery...."


              "The trial court may order a terminating sanction for discovery abuse 'after considering the totality of the circumstances: [the] conduct of the party to determine if the actions were willful; the detriment to the propounding party; and the number of formal and informal attempts to obtain the discovery.'" (Los Defensores, Inc. v. Gomez (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 377, 390 (quoting Lang v. Hachman (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 1225, 1246).) "Generally, '[a] decision to order terminating sanctions should not be made lightly. But where a violation is willful, preceded by a history of abuse, and the evidence shows that less severe sanctions would not produce compliance with the discovery rules, the trial court is justified in imposing the ultimate sanction.'" (Los Defensores, supra, 223 Cal.App.4th at p. 390 (citation omitted).)


              "Under this standard, trial courts have properly imposed terminating sanctions when parties have willfully disobeyed one or more discovery orders." (Id. (citing Lang, supra, 77 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1244- 1246); see, e.g., Collisson X Kaplan v. Hartunian (1994) 21 Cal.App.4th 1611, 1617-1622 (terminating sanctions imposed after defendants failed to comply with one court order to produce discovery); Laguna Auto Body v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (1991) 231 Cal App 3d 481, 491 (disapproved on other grounds in Garcia v. McCucchen (1997) 16 Cal.4th 469, 478, n. 4) (terminating sanctions imposed against plaintiff for failing to comply with a discovery order and for violating various discovery statutes).)




              Plaintiff moves for terminating sanctions against Defendant on the ground that Defendant failed to comply with the Court's September 8, 2022 order to respond to discovery. Previously, the Court has continued this matter twice to afford Defendant with an opportunity to comply with the September 8, 2022 order based on the impression that Defendant has not abandoned the case. (See December 14, 2022 Minute Order; February 10, 2023 Minute Order.) The Court is also aware that the party intervening in this action, Loya Casualty Insurance Company, has had difficulty in locating Defendant, which is why discovery responses have not yet been provided. Most recently, on February 10, 2023, the Court instructed the parties to submit supplemental briefings regarding the status of discovery. (February 10, 2023 Minute Order at pg. 3.) Plaintiff has filed a supplemental brief, stating that Defendant has still not responded to the discovery at issue in this motion. (See Plaintiff’s Supplemental Briefing filed on January 26, 2023 at pg. 3.) It is also noted that Defendant has not filed any supplemental briefing.


              Based on Defendant’s repeated failure to comply with the Court’s September 9, 2022 Order, the Court finds that terminating sanctions are warranted in this instance. Defendant has failed to explain why she has been unable to comply with the outstanding court order, and as a result, the Court finds that Defendant has willfully misused the discovery process by this lack of diligence. (Deyo v. Kilbourne (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 771, 787 [“Lack of diligence may be deemed willful in the sense that the party understood his obligation, had the ability to comply, and failed to comply.”]) Also, Defendant’s failure to comply has been detrimental to Plaintiff’s attempt to prepare for trial, which is currently set for May 5, 2023. Because Defendant has repeatedly failed to respond to Plaintiff’s written discovery requests, terminating sanctions are appropriate. (Jerry's Shell v. Equilon Enterprises, LLC (2005) 134 Cal.App.4th 1058, 1069.)


              Accordingly, the Court finds that terminating sanctions are appropriate.




              Because of Defendant’s willful failure to respond to discovery and to comply with the Court’s September 8, 2022 order, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for terminating sanctions.



Moving party is ordered to give notice.