Sempier v. Johnson & Higgins
45 F.2d 724 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1159 (1995)

  • Sempier sued J&H for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C. 623).
    • Sempier sent two sets of interrogatories to J&H, but J&H refused to answer the questions.
  • Sempier moved to have the Trial Judge compel J&H to respond to the interrogatories (see Rule 37and Rule 26(b)(5)(c)), but instead, the Trial Judge remanded the issue to a magistrate judge.
    • The magistrate judge compiled a third set of interrogatories from Sempier, but J&H refused to answer those as well.
  • Sempier again moved to have the Trial Judge compel J&H to answer. However, the Trial Judge dismissed the motion and gave J&H a list of his own questions (called a “Bill of Particulars”) to answer instead of Sempier’s interrogatories.
  • The Trial Court dismissed the case with summary judgment. Sempier appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact, so summary judgment was not appropriate.
    • The Appellate Court found that The Trial Court’s use of a “Bill of Particulars” was an abuse of discretion.
      • The Appellate Court found Sempier’s interrogatories to be appropriate questions that J&H should have answered and which the Trial Judge should have compelled J&H to answer.
    • Rule 37 and Rule 26(b)(5)(c) allow for a Trial Judge to order facts established, forbid the introduction of evidence, strike the pleadings, file a default judgment, dismiss the action, or hold a party in contempt of court. But they do not permit the wholesale substitution of the Court’s questions for the plaintiff’s interrogatories!
      • If the judge thought Sempier’s interrogatories were inappropriate, he could have denied them using Rule 26(b). If he thought they were appropriate, he could have compelled them under Rule 37(b).