Court overturns decision defaulting woman who did not fulfill discovery obligations
Bridget Tolliver sued the Stonebrook III Divident Housing Association, arguing that it contructively evicted her by failing to respond to leaks and black mold. She then became embroiled in controversy with her lawyer. He sought to withdraw from the case after she filed a grievance against him. Tolliver did not file answers to the Defendants' discovery requests, and blamed the failure on her lawyer and on the fact that she was suffering pregnancy complications that debilitated her.
After the Court granted her attorney's right to withdraw, Tolliver's father appeared in court to explain her inability to attend a hearing to determine sanctions for failure to provide discovery. The Court responded by defaulting Tolliver and dismissing her case. On appeal the Court held that the judge did not adequately explain the basis for his drastic dismissal sanction; given the evidence that Tolliver's non-compliance was neither wanton nor flagrant, the Court held that the lower court must re-visit the issue of appropriate sanctions. It did not disturb the order to compel discovery at Tolliver's request, however, as it found that the order was properly entered under the circumstances.