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Aura Lamp & Lighting Inc. v. International Trading Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
325 F.3d 903 (7th Cir. 2003)


Facts

Aura Lamp & Lighting Inc. (Aura Lamp) (plaintiff) sued International Trading Corp. (ITC) (defendant) in federal court on breach of contract and patent claims. Aura Lamp was permitted to amend the complaint’s inadequate assertion of diversity jurisdiction, but failed to do so until threatened with dismissal. ITC moved for dismissal or transfer, which was denied. The district court accepted Aura Lamp’s late brief over ITC’s objection. Aura Lamp failed to respond to ITC’s interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admission within 30 days, as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). ITC agreed to two extensions, which Aura Lamp missed. ITC moved to compel discovery, asked that the requested admissions be deemed admitted, and requested sanctions. Aura Lamp’s attorney said he worked alone and Aura Lamp was a “one-man operation” without the resources to comply. The judge allowed Aura Lamp’s lawyer to set the discovery deadline, but repeatedly warned she would consider dismissal if it was missed. Aura Lamp produced no documents and served incomplete responses. ITC moved for dismissal for Aura Lamp’s violations of court orders, noncompliance with discovery, and failure to prosecute. Aura Lamp’s attorney claimed the conduct was not willful or wanton but caused by “unforeseen circumstances beyond his control.” The judge held that wilful and wanton misconduct was not required and dismissed for failure to prosecute. Aura Lamp appealed, arguing that (1) the district court applied the wrong standard, because dismissal required willful and wanton misconduct, (2) warnings were required before dismissal, and (3) less severe sanctions should have been considered.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Rovner, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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