Ms. Collins, representing herself pro se, in an action alleging multiple claims arising from a mortgage lending scheme by the defendants failed to comply with multiple orders regarding discovery. Upon the motions of the defendants, the district court (lamenting that no attorneys from the Pro Bono Panel had stepped up to assist Ms. Collins) applied the four-part test from Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 269 F.3d 305, 348 (4th Cir. 2001) to determine what sanctions to impose:
1) whether the non-complying party acted in bad faith;
(2) the amount of prejudice that noncompliance caused the adversary;
(3) the need for deterrence of the particular sort of non-compliance; and
(4) whether less drastic sanctions would have been effective.
Finding that Ms. Collins repeated failures constitute bad faith that prejudice, while not absolutely, but nonetheless significantly the defendants’ ability to evaluate and prepare their case, the district court awarded reasonable attorney’s fees (to be determined separately) and stayed the prosecution of the case by Ms. Collins until such fees were paid, at which time a new time line for compliance with discovery would again be set. Failure to pay those fees would result in dismissal of the action.
Ms. Collins as a pro se plaintiff seems to have escaped this with far fewer consequences than an attorney would have in the same situation.
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