The defendant in this private jet interior decoration case pleaded a series of affirmative defenses. After the defendant’s counsel objected to requests for production asking for documents related to these affirmative defenses and then instructed its corporate representative not to answer depositions questions about them, the trial court struck the affirmative defenses in their entirety as a sanction. The defendant later lost at trial and appealed the trial court’s sanction.
The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that striking the defendant’s affirmative defenses amounted to a “death penalty” sanction that went too far. Because the trial court had not adequately considered other remedies (such as assessing deposition costs or awarding attorneys’ fees), the sanction was unwarranted. The Court explained that “case determinative sanctions may be imposed in the first instance only in exceptional cases when they are clearly justified and it is fully apparent that no lesser sanctions would promote compliance with the rules.”