REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JAMES C. FRANCIS, IV, District Judge.
In this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiffs, Ronald G. Taylor and Rose M. Taylor, allege, among other things, that Mr. Taylor's Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when members of the New York City Police Department arrested him without probable cause on two occasions. Ms. Taylor alleges that her Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when members of the New York City Housing Authority allowed her apartment to become uninhabitable. The defendants seek dismissal of the complaint for failure to prosecute. I recommend that the motion be granted.
It is the procedural history that is relevant here, rather than the substantive allegations of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed their original complaint in March 2015. (Complaint at 1). In June 2016, I ordered the parties to complete discovery by December 30, 2016. (Order dated June 28, 2016 ("6/28/16 Order") at 1). The parties have yet to complete discovery, principally because both plaintiffs have failed to attend depositions despite multiple attempts by the defendants to depose them.
The plaintiffs' did not appear for depositions on December 6, 2016, and December 8, 2016. (Letter of David Ferrari dated Dec. 22, 2016 ("Ferrari 12/22/16 Letter") at 2). Although the plaintiffs alerted the defendants that they were not going to attend these depositions, they did not offer alternative dates. (Ferrari 12/22/16 Letter at 2). According to defendants' counsel, the plaintiffs explained that they were "unable to comply with their discovery obligations because they have been inundated with seeking appropriate medical treatment for Plaintiff Rose Taylor." (Ferrari 12/22/16 Letter at 2). Notwithstanding Ms. Taylor's purported medical treatment, the plaintiffs assured the defendants that they would comply with future discovery requests. (Ferrari 12/22/16 Letter at 2). In light of these assurances, the defendants, rather than moving for sanctions at that time, agreed to file a joint application to extend the discovery deadline. (Ferrari 12/22/16 Letter at 2). I granted the parties' request and extended the deadline to February 28, 2017. (Order dated Dec. 23, 2017).
The plaintiffs next refused to appear for depositions on February 15, 2017, and February 16, 2017. (Letter of David Ferrari dated Feb. 14, 2017 ("Ferrari 2/14/17 Letter") at 2). The plaintiffs stated that they were not going to attend these depositions unless the defendants agreed to pay for the costs associated with their appearances — including meals and transportation. (Email of Ronald Taylor dated February 13, 2017 ("Taylor 2/13/17 Email"), attached to Letter of Ronald Taylor dated February 21, 2017, at 6).
The plaintiffs did not appear for the depositions on February 22, 2017, and March 7, 2017. (Letter of David Ferrari dated March 13, 2017 (Ferrari "3/13/17 Letter") at 2). In response, the defendants requested that I issue a report and recommendation to dismiss this matter with prejudice in response to the plaintiffs' failure to comply with Court orders and to prosecute this action. (Ferrari 3/13/17 Letter at 3). In the alternative, the defendants requested that I compel the plaintiffs to appear for depositions on pain of dismissal of the action. (Ferrari 3/13/17 Letter at 3). Instead of dismissing the case, I ordered the plaintiffs to appear for depositions on March 21, 2017, and March 23, 2017. (Memorandum Endorsement dated March 15, 2017 ("3/15/17 Memo Endorsement") at 3). In that Order, I stated that "[s]ince the defendants appear willing to give the plaintiffs one last chance to avoid dismissal of this case, I am as well." (3/15/17 Memo Endorsement at 3).
The plaintiffs did not appear for the depositions on March 21, 2017, and March 23, 2017. (Letter of David Ferrari dated April 5, 2017 ("Ferrari 4/5/17 Letter") at 3). In response, the defendants renewed their request that I issue a recommendation that this action be dismissed with prejudice. (Ferrari 4/5/17 Letter at 3).
An action may be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with the[ ] rules or a court order." The court's authority to dismiss for failure to prosecute "is vital to the efficient administration of judicial affairs and provides meaningful access for other prospective litigants to overcrowded courts."
Since dismissal with prejudice is a harsh sanction, a
"The first factor breaks down into two parts: (1) whether the failures to prosecute were those of the plaintiff, and (2) whether these failures were of significant duration."
The duration of the plaintiffs' non-compliance is significant because the defendants have been unable to achieve any meaningful discovery since at least December of 2016 — over six months ago — when the plaintiffs first failed to appear for depositions.
The plaintiffs received notice when I warned them that "[f]ailure to appear shall result in sanctions, including possible dismissal of the complaint." (2/15/17 Order);
It is presumed that defendants are prejudiced as a matter of law to the extent that the delay was "lengthy . . . inexcusable . . . [and] contumacious."
Balancing the Interests of the Court and the Plaintiff
The plaintiffs' failures to attend depositions have impaired "the efficient administration of judicial affairs,"
Consideration of Lesser Sanctions
Since the defendants cannot adequately prepare for trial without deposing the plaintiffs, "[n]o sanction short of dismissal would be appropriate here."
For the reasons discussed above, I recommend that this case be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b) (1) and Rules 72, 6(a), and 6(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties shall have fourteen (14) days to file written objections to this Report and Recommendation. Such objection shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court, with extra copies delivered to the Chambers of the Honorable Paul A. Crotty, Room 1350, and to the Chambers of the undersigned, Room 1960, 500 Pearl Street, New York, New York 10007. Failure to file timely objections will preclude appellate review.