GROELLE & SALMON FAVORABLE RULINGS

TRIAL COURT ORDERS DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE AS SANCTION FOR BENCHMARK CONSULTING’S DISCOVERY VIOLATIONS

Kimberly A. Salmon, Partner –  St. Petersburg Office

Congratulations to Edison Insurance Company for its dismissal of a lawsuit in the matter of Benchmark Consulting, Inc. a/a/o Aaron Hynick v. Edison Insurance Company, Case No. 19-CA-002375, Thirteen Judicial Circuit for Hillsborough County, Florida (March 26, 2020). Judge Gregory P. Holder granted Edison Insurance Company’s Motion for Sanctions, dismissing the case with prejudice for violation of the Court’s Order.  The Motion for Sanctions arose from Benchmark’s failure to file discovery responses, failure to respond to good faith efforts, failure to file a Motion for Extension of Time, and failure to comply with the Court’s Order compelling the discovery responses.  In the Order, Judge Holder noted, “The flagrant disobedience of this Court’s Order cannot be without serious ramifications, and in this case, serious sanctions.”  Smith Thompson Law represents the Plaintiff and has filed a Motion for Rehearing/Reconsideration.

The Kovar Law Group filed a breach of contract action on behalf of Benchmark Consulting, Inc. d/b/a Castle Roofing, relative to an assignment of benefits relating to roof damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Smith Thompson Law entered a Stipulation for Substitution of Counsel in June 2019 and filed its Notice of Appearance on October 17, 2019.  Defendant served written discovery on October 16, 2019. The discovery responses were due November 15, 2019. Defendant sent a good faith letter on December 12, 2019 and Plaintiff failed to respond.  Defendant filed an Exparte-Motion to Compel on January 14, 2020, and the Court entered an Order compelling production of the discovery, finding that Plaintiff waived all objections except privilege, and awarding monetary sanctions.  The discovery was due January 29, 2020.  Plaintiff filed its Answers to Interrogatories on that date, raising objections in violation of the Court’s Order.  Defendant filed a Motion for Sanctions on February 6, 2020.  Plaintiff filed its Response to Request to Produce, again raising objections in violation of the Court’s Order.

During the hearing on March 26, 2020, Plaintiff argued that his client was unsophisticated. The Court noted that the Plaintiff had over 50 lawsuits currently pending before the Court and was being represented by professional attorneys.  The Court found that both Plaintiff and its counsel willfully and contumaciously violated the Court’s Order.  In its Motion for Rehearing, Plaintiff’s counsel asserted that there was confusion surrounding the Court’s Order and that his comments during the hearing were misconstrued.