Plaintiffs, Atlantic Sounding and Weeks Marine, filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that they did not owe Maurice Fendlason, an injured seaman-employee, maintenance and cure benefits. Fendlason answered and filed a counterclaim for damages, as well as maintenance and cure. But then Fendlason’s participation in his case stopped. He failed to appear for proceedings, failed to comply with court orders, failed to attend multiple scheduled depositions, and failed to participate with his (original) attorney. After four months of these shenanigans, Plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss. The district court offered Fendlason an opportunity to show cause why his case should not be dismissed, but Fendlason failed to appear for the hearing. Accordingly, the district court dismissed Fendlason’s action with prejudice.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed, even though alternative lesser sanctions were available. Fendlason’s actions showed a “clear record of delay or contumacious conduct” sufficient to warrant dismissal. He was given multiple opportunities to avoid dismissal, and he failed to take advantage of either. Here, the “district court did not abuse its discretion when, after adequate warning, it dismissed the action with prejudice.