United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE
Turner, Valerie Smith, and Beverly Whitaker have filed three
motions with the Court: (1) an amended motion to
strike (doc. 40); (2) a motion to stay (doc. 51);
and (3) a motion for an extension of time (doc. 52). The
Court DENIES the motion to strike and motion to stay and
GRANTS the motion for an extension of time.
in this case are fighting over Michael Turner's
life-insurance proceeds. Before his death, Turner named
Defendant Latasha Jefferson as the sole beneficiary of his
State Farm life-insurance policy. (Doc. 1 ¶ 26.)
Turner's siblings, ll Defendants David Turner, Valerie
Smith, and Beverly Whitaker ("the siblings''),
contend that Jefferson improperly induced I Turner to remove
them as beneficiaries. (Id. ¶ 36.) Turner
passed away in April 2016, and Jefferson and the siblings
claim entitlement to his insurance proceeds. State Farm filed
this interpleader action to resolve the dispute.
parties conducted discovery, and during her deposition,
Jefferson misrepresented her criminal history. When asked by
counsel for the siblings whether she had ever been convicted
of a crime or arrested, Jefferson said that she had been
convicted of driving without a license and that she had been
arrested for failing to pay the fine for that conviction.
(Doc. 40-1 at 26-27.) She stated that she had not been
convicted of any other crimes. (Id. at 26.) It turns
out, however, that Jefferson had been convicted of other
traffic offenses and possession of drugs. Counsel for the
siblings discovered some of these charges through his own
investigation, and Jefferson admitted some in written
discovery, which was served after her deposition.
siblings ask the Court to (1) strike Jefferson's answer
because of Jefferson's misstatement in her deposition,
(2) stay this case pending the resolution of litigation
concerning I Turner's estate in the Richmond County
Probate Court, and (3) extend the deadline for filing motions
in this case.
Motion to Strike
Jefferson "perjured herself, " the siblings argue,
the Court should use its inherent sanction power to strike
Jefferson's answer. "A court may impose sanctions
for litigation misconduct under its inherent power."
Eagle Hosp. Physicians, LLC v. SRG Consulting, Inc.,
561 F.3d 1298, 1306 (11th Cir. 2009) . But the Court must
exercise this power "with restraint and discretion"
and only when the Court makes a finding of bad faith. See
id. The striking of an answer is a severe sanction that
is appropriate only when a lesser punishment would not
sufficiently punish or deter the bad behavior. See
id.; Chemtall, Inc. v. Citi-Chem, Inc., 992
F.Supp. 1390, 1408 (S.D. Ga. 1998).
Jefferson misstated her criminal history during her
deposition, the siblings have not shown that she did so
intentionally or in bad faith. Indeed, when she responded to
written discovery requests, which were not served until after
her deposition, Jefferson provided more detail about her
criminal history. (See Doc. 53-4 at 6-7.) The
siblings have also failed to show that a lesser sanction
would not sufficiently punish or deter the behavior.
Accordingly, the I Court DENIES the siblings' motion to
strike Jefferson's answer.
Motion to Stay
The siblings also ask the Court to stay this case pending the
resolution of litigation over Turner's estate in the
Richmond County Probate Court. Jefferson has apparently been
appointed the administrator of Turner's estate, and the
siblings have petitioned that court to remove her from that
position. Without citing any law, the siblings contend that a
stay is appropriate because if Jefferson is removed as
administrator or is "found to have made any
misrepresentation to the Probate Court or the Guardian Ad
Litem appointed in that case, that would be admissible
evidence in this case which would show her motivation in
seeking a change of beneficiary designation on the late Mr.
Turner's life insurance policy." (Doc. 51 at 2-3.)
Court has the discretion to stay cases "as an incident
to its power to control its own docket." See Clinton
v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997). A stay may not be
immoderate: a stay should be granted only for good reason and
should not last an unreasonable amount of time. See
Ortega Trujillo v. Conover & Co. Commc'ns, Inc.,
221 F.3d 1262, 1264 (11th Cir. 2000).
Court is unconvinced that it should stay this case pending
the resolution of the litigation in the Probate Court. As an
initial matter, the siblings have not provided any indication
as to how long that litigation may last, making the requested
stay for an indefinite period of time. And more important,
the siblings contend only that admissible evidence may arise
from the estate litigation. They do not argue, for example,
that the resolution of that matter would help dispose of any
issues in this case or otherwise expedite its resolution.
Accordingly, the Court DENIES the siblings' motion to
stay. C. Motion for an Extension of Time The siblings also