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DEAN v. GAINESVILLE STONE COMPANY, INC.
44574.
Order to produce documents. Hall City Court. Before Judge Smith.
BELL, Presiding Judge.
The trial judge did not abuse his discretion in entering judgment by default in favor of the defendant and against a disobedient plaintiff who failed to produce documents as ordered by the court.
On June 23, 1967, the deposition of plaintiff (appellant) was taken. Plaintiff testified in effect that he had filed income tax returns for 1966, 1965 and 1964 but refused voluntarily to furnish copies of them to the defense. On September 18, interrogatories were propounded to plaintiff, seeking the amount of his earnings for the years 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967. Responding, plaintiff stated he was unable to say with exactness as he had misplaced his income tax returns for those years. On October 25, 1968, defendant filed a motion for production of documents stating pertinent reasons why plaintiff should be required to produce copies of his income tax returns for 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967. A hearing was set on this motion for November 8, 1968. Following the hearing on that date at which the plaintiff was represented by counsel, the judge entered an order requiring plaintiff to submit by November 17, 1968, copies of his income tax returns for 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967. On November 14, 1968, plaintiff submitted an affidavit in which he stated he had apparently lost copies of those income tax returns, and that upon checking with the Internal Revenue Service it would take from 30 to 60 days to obtain copies of the returns and therefore he could not comply with the court's order of November 8, 1968. On January 24, 1969, defendant filed a motion to require plaintiff to produce the documents and upon failure to do so, prayed for judgment. An order was entered requiring plaintiff to show cause on February 8, 1969, why the motion should not be granted. At the hearing on February 8, 1969, the plaintiff testified that he had not filed income tax returns for the years 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967. He testified he was going to prepare and file them. The court asked if an extension of 30 days would give him enough time to prepare the returns and produce them in court for inspection as required by the previous order of the court. The plaintiff replied "That's fair enough." The court carefully warned plaintiff that if the documents were not produced within the 30 days extension, that the complaint would be dismissed and judgment entered for the defendant. On March 11, 1969, the documents not having been produced, the complaint was dismissed and judgment entered for defendant. The appeal is from that judgment.
Under the discovery provisions of the Civil Practice Act, a trial judge is authorized to direct parties to an action to produce pertinent documents for inspection, copying or photographing. Code Ann. 81A-134 (a). A broad discretionary power is given to the judges by the Act to assure safeguards against oppressive and unfair questions and demands. Conversely, a very broad discretion is granted judges in applying sanctions against disobedient parties in order to assure compliance with the orders of the courts. By Code Ann. 81A-137 (b) (2) (iii) the courts arc specifically granted the discretion to dismiss complaints or to render default judgments against disobedient parties. This applies to the disobeying of an order to produce. Historically it has been the policy of the Georgia appellate courts to refuse to interfere with a trial court's exercise of its discretion in absence of abuse. This policy is applicable to a trial judge's exercise of the broad discretionary powers authorized under the discovery provisions of the Civil Practice Act. Williamson v. Lunsford, 119 Ga. App. 240 (100 SE2d 022). Under the facts in this case, we cannot say the trial judge abused his discretion.
Judgment affirmed. Eberhardt and Deen, JJ., concur.
Greer, Sartain & Carey, Joe B. Sartain, Jr., Howard T. Overby, for appellee.
William C. Dean, pro se.
ARGUED JULY 8, 1969 -- DECIDED SEPTEMBER 2, 1969 -- REHEARING DENIED SEPTEMBER 19, 1969.
Friday May 22 17:33 EDT


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