United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR COSTS UNDER RULE 41(D) AND STAYING PROCEEDINGS
Re: Dkt. No. 10
LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.
Plaintiff Nathalie Thuy Van ("Plaintiff" or "Van") brings this action against Defendants Language Line Service, Inc. ("Language Line"), Language Line Solutions, and Does 1-50, (collectively "Defendants"). ECF No. 1. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d) and to stay proceedings pending payment. ECF No. 10. Plaintiff filed an opposition. ECF No. 16. Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 18. The parties have also filed unopposed requests for judicial notice. ECF Nos. 10, 18, 21. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record in this case, and the relevant law, and for good cause shown, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion.
A. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The Court begins by noting that neither party has provided a full and complete record of the proceedings before the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Thus, the Court gleans the factual background from the parties' pleadings and submissions. The parties do not appear to dispute the following relevant facts.
Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants in Superior Court in Santa Clara County on April 8, 2013. See Defendants' Request for Judicial Notice ("Defendants' RJN"), ECF No. 10, Exh. B ("Sept. 11, 2013 Order"). In addition to the two Defendants named in the instant action, Plaintiff's state court action also included claims against individual defendants that were employees of Defendant Language Line. Defendants' RJN, Exh. A ("SAC"). Plaintiff amended her complaint twice, and filed her state court Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") on June 26, 2013. Id. Plaintiff's SAC alleged claims of racial discrimination, retaliation, and harassment in violation of California's Fair Housing and Employment Act, violations of California Labor Code, fraudulent misrepresentation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. See generally SAC. In total, Plaintiff alleged 11 claims. See id.
On September 11, 2013, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce sustained demurrers without leave to amend to Plaintiff's negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. See Sept. 11, 2013 Order at 3-4 (claims 9, 10, 11). The Superior Court also sustained demurrers without leave to amend to Plaintiff's racial discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination and harassment claims as to the individual defendants. Id. (claims 1, 3, 8). On September 17, 2013, Plaintiff then dismissed all defendants without prejudice with the exception of defendant "Language Line Solutions2120, " which had not made an appearance in the case because it is a non-entity service mark. Plaintiff sought and acquired a default judgment only as to Language Line Solutions2120. Mot. at 4.
On October 31, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Judge Pierce. See Defendants' Supplemental Request for Judicial Notice ("Defendants' Supp. RJN"), Exh. A. The action was then reassigned to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan, who set aside the default against the service mark Language Line Solutions on November 27, 2013. Plaintiff then filed a complaint against Judge Kirwan, alleging improper ex parte communications. Unlike Judge Pierce, Judge Kirwan decided to answer Plaintiff's complaint and filed a verified answer. The Judicial Council assigned Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Ariadne Symons to preside over Plaintiff's complaint, and Judge Symons concluded that Plaintiff's complaint against Judge Kirwan was based on "nothing more than speculation and conjecture, " and denied Plaintiff's motion to disqualify Judge Kirwan. See Defendants' Supp. RJN, Exh. C.
Following Judge Symons order denying Plaintiff's motion to disqualify Judge Kirwan, Plaintiff's suit against Defendants was reassigned to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas. Though it is not clear when, precisely, Plaintiff reasserted her claims against the other defendants, at some point between September 17, 2013, when Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed those claims, and June 3, 2014, when Plaintiff refiled her action against Defendants. On June 19, 2014, the parties were to appear for a trial setting conference in Plaintiff's action against Defendants. That same day, Judge Lucas issued an Order to Show Cause ("OSC") because Defendants' counsel failed to appear at the trial setting conference. See Supplemental Declaration of Heath Havey, ECF No. 21 ("Supp. Havey Decl.") ¶ 7; Plaintiff's Request for Judicial Notice ("Plaintiff's RJN"), Exh. A. In relevant part, the notice of hearing on the OSC ordered the parties to appear at a hearing on July 24, 2014 and:
Show cause why the above entitled case should not be dismissed for failure of Defendants to appear at the Trial Setting Conference on 6/19/14 as required by the Local Rules of the Court.
Defense to Show Cause Why Answer should not be Stricken and Default be Entered
See Plaintiff's RJN, Exh. A. Defendants filed a response and declaration regarding the OSC, and Judge Lucas discharged the OSC in open court on July 24, 2014. See Supp. Havey Decl. ¶ 7.
In the interim, Plaintiff apparently refused to stipulate to a protective order at a hearing on July 10, 2014. See Supp. Havey Decl. ¶ 3. The Superior Court imposed the standard protective order over Plaintiff's objections on July 24, 2014. Id.; Mot. at 4. During this same time period, Plaintiff refused to appear at three properly noticed depositions. Defendants first noticed Plaintiff's deposition for June 12 and 13, 2014, and Plaintiff served objections to the deposition notice and filed an ex parte application for a stay of her deposition. See Defendant's RJN, Exh. C, at 2-4. Judge Lucas denied Plaintiff's stay request by court order on June 3, 2014. Id. Defendants filed an amended deposition notice for June 19 and 20, 2014, dates that Plaintiff had previously confirmed she was available. Plaintiff again objected to the notice, asserting that she would not appear. Plaintiff then served a notice of unavailability for June 16 to 23, 2014. As Judge Lucas described it, "Plaintiff thereby attempted again to grant to herself by another means the relief the court had denied, " that is, a stay of her deposition. Id. at 3. Defendants then rescheduled Plaintiff's deposition for July 19, 2014, and Plaintiff failed to appear at the July 19, 2014 deposition. Defendants re-noticed Plaintiff's deposition for July 28 and 29, 2014, and Plaintiff, once more, objected. Plaintiff again stated that she "would not appear for deposition on those dates or anytime, " until she felt Defendants were producing responsive discovery documents.
Following Plaintiff's repeated refusals to appear for her depositions, Defendants filed a motion for monetary sanctions and to compel her appearance, or for terminating sanctions. On August 21, 2014 Judge Lucas issued tentative rulings granting Defendants' motion for monetary sanctions on two different bases. Judge Lucas awarded "$1, 050 as and for reasonable attorney fees (2.5 × $420)" under California's discovery act because Plaintiff's motion to stay her deposition was "without substantial justification." More importantly, Judge Lucas awarded "$7, 713 as and for reasonably attorney fees (deducting 6.5 hours travel time and $300 travel expense)" based on Plaintiff's repeated and knowing failure to obey the June 3, 2014 court order to provide discovery. Judge Lucas concluded that "Plaintiff persisted in repeating [objections to the deposition notices] because she fully appreciated that the June 3 order was entirely valid and... she was refusing to comply with it." At the time Judge Lucas issued her tentative rulings, Judge Lucas also continued Defendants' motion to compel Plaintiff's appearance, or in the alternative, for terminating sanctions to August 29, 2014 and advanced the date of Plaintiff's motion to quash her deposition to the same date. Judge Lucas affirmed her tentative rulings ordering monetary sanctions in a published order on September 2, 2014. See Defendants' RJN, Exh. C ("Sept. 2, 2014 order") at 2-3. See id. at 4.
On August 21, 2014, the same day Judge Lucas issued her tentative rulings sanctioning Plaintiff, Plaintiff filed a "motion to transfer case from state court" in the instant action and filed her federal Complaint. ECF Nos. 1, 4. On August 26, 2014, Plaintiff dismissed her state court action without prejudice, three days prior to the scheduled hearing on terminating sanctions. See Defendants' Supp. RJN, Exh. D ("Aug. 31, 2014 order"). Defendants requested a hearing on their motion for terminating sanctions after Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal, which Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates Manoukian denied on August 31, 2014. In the August 31, 2014 order, Judge Manoukian found that although Plaintiff had filed "seriatim dismissals without prejudice in this matter in an attempt to avoid a hearing on the above motion, " Plaintiff was entitled to voluntarily dismiss her case without prejudice under California law. Id.
B. Procedural History
As discussed above, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in the instant action on August 21, 2014. ECF No. 1. That same day, Plaintiff also filed a purported "motion to transfer" her state action to federal court, which the Court denied on August 29, 2014. ECF No. 9. Defendants filed their motion for costs under Rule 41(d) and to stay proceedings until payment of costs on September 15, 2014. ECF ...