Citing continued delays and willful disregard, Judge Charles Shaw dismissed Tracey McCarthy’s lawsuit against Webster University on Jan. 10, 2013. McCarthy sued Webster in August 2011 in St. Louis County circuit court and the case was elevated to federal court that following month.
The same day of dismissal, McCarthy filed a suit against Webster in St. Louis City Circuit Court. For further information, see story to the right.
In 2011, McCarthy sued the university on four counts: race discrimination, sex discrimination, disability discrimination and retaliation. McCarthy alleged damages of at least $25,000 on each count.
In his order, Judge Shaw explained the gravity of this decision.
“A dismissal with prejudice is ‘an extreme sanction,’ and ‘should be used only in cases of willful disobedience of a court order or where a litigant exhibits a pattern of intentional delay,’” he wrote, quoting the case Hunt v. City of Minneapolis.
Shaw said McCarthy had failed to at least three times to provide the relevant documents to Webster’s attorneys at least three times. These documents included records of McCarthy’s treatment from a counselor for emotional distress as well as the counselor’s deposition. McCarthy was told she as well as the counselor’s deposition. McCarthy was told she would need to release all documents and materials to Webster by Nov. 8, 2012.
McCarthy did release the name of her counselor, but failed to authorize the release of records. Only when McCarthy hired attorney Jaclyn Zimmerman to represent her was the authorization given.
“That said, it was too little too late,” Shaw wrote.
Zimmerman, of the firm Ponder Zimmermann LCC, was hired by McCarthy on Dec. 14, 2012. McCarthy fired her former attorney, Donnell Smith, on July 10, 2012 for his alleged failure to represent her best interest.
Previously, Shaw had told McCarthy continued failures to disclose documents and materials would result in dismissal.
Shaw said the university’s “ability to defend itself was seriously hampered” because McCarthy had disregarded the obligations to legal process and Shaw’s orders.
“Time and money have been wasted, and defendant still does not have all the information it needs to file a motion for summary judgment or go to trial,” Shaw wrote.
“The Court has considered but finds no other sanction short of dismissal that is appropriate at this time.”
Shaw acknowledged McCarthy had represented herself for the majority of the case and expressed a desire to hear such a case on its merits. However, Shaw wrote he did not believe a lesser punishment would “deter plaintiff from continuing to abuse the discovery process.”
“Plaintiff has been plainly warned both verbally and in written orders that she must comply with Court orders and her discovery obligations, and she has even been fined — all to no avail. Plaintiff remains steadfast in her defiance to the rules and orders of this Court,” Shaw wrote.