When the court can penalize you for not listening to its orders

What happens when you don’t follow the courts orders concerning discovery and document production?

Author: Elliot M. Hirsch
Case Citation: Davis v. Electronic Arts Inc., 2018 WL 1609289 (N.D. Cal. 2018)

eLesson Learned: If you don’t follow the specific instructions a court order delineates you will not be able to find a loophole and avoid culpability. They can and will sanction you for not following their orders.
Tweet This: NFL players file a lawsuit against EA’s Madden NFL game and wish they were as good on the field as they are in the courtroom

Anytime you deal with an NFL player you know they aren’t going to be a pushover. These guys live on the gridiron and are an inspiration to people worldwide. If you try to take advantage of them, they will let you know that they aren’t having it.

EA Sports created a famous NFL game called Madden. What EA tries to do best is create NFL figures that look exactly like the real-life players. The NFL players sued EA on the basis that they were misappropriating their rights by infringing on their likeness without proper authorization.

What occurred after the lawsuit is that EA requested certain documents in discovery and certain communications between the players and others. They did this because they stated that these communications and documents would provide EA the information to protect itself from this lawsuit.

The court on September 15, 2017, made an order granting EA’s request for certain discovery and amending responses pertaining to interrogatories and production of documents. There were multiple levels of requests that EA was demanding. The court found their arguments warranted pursuit and therefore granted their motion.

Thereafter, the NFL player Plaintiffs failed to follow the court order and EA made a motion for sanctions and other relief. The court went through a detailed account of all the things that the plaintiffs neglected to do pertaining to its order. The court went through each demand and in some cases stated that the Plaintiffs were not liable but in most of them, the court stated that the Plaintiffs failed to properly follow the court order.

For example, the court stated that because the Plaintiffs’ didn’t comply with the court’s order regarding Interrogatory Nos. 13 and 14, they sanctioned them in the sense that they only allowed the Plaintiffs to assert any action concerning the economic value in Plaintiffs’ names, images, identities, and/or likenesses. This was done in order to punish the plaintiffs and now they were limited in their capability to sue EA.

In another way, the court relied upon Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1) by prohibiting the Plaintiffs from introducing or relying upon, in a motion, at a hearing, or at trial, any documents that they have not previously produced in discovery, absent substantial justification.

EA requested $40,000 in monetary sanction. The court concluded that $25,000 was warranted in conjunction with the evidentiary consequences. This was because EA was not able to furnish proper billing records concerning the attorney fees.

In conclusion, it is apparent that by not following the court’s order the court imposed some severe sanctions that hampered the NFL players ability to sue EA for what they were seeking. It is crucial to ensure that one fully follows a court order in order to retain its capability to legally pursue one’s rights.

Elliot M. Hirsch is a third-year law student at Seton Hall Law school. Before attending law school, Mr. Hirsch was a semi-professional tennis player training with some of the best tennis players in the world. Additionally, Mr. Hirsch was a Math teacher and tutor for students in middle school and high school. Mr. Hirsch has taught over 3500 students ranging from Honors programs to students with severe learning disabilities.

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