Lopez v. Watchtower Bible & Tract SocietyAnnotate this Case
Jose Lopez sued the national Jehovah's Witnesses organization, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower), alleging his Bible instructor sexually abused him in 1986 when he was a child. Lopez asserted several legal theories, including failure to warn, negligent supervision, and negligent hiring/retention. After contentious discovery disputes, the court issued two discovery orders against Watchtower: (1) compelling the deposition of an individual (Gerrit Losch) whom the court found was a "managing agent" of Watchtower; and (2) ordering the production of documents in Watchtower's files pertaining to other perpetrators of child sexual abuse. When Watchtower failed to comply with these orders, the court granted Lopez's motion for monetary and terminating sanctions, struck Watchtower's answer, and entered Watchtower's default. Watchtower appealed, challenging the validity of the discovery orders and an abuse of discretion in failing to impose lesser sanctions. After review, the Court of Appeal rejecte Watchtower's challenges to the production order, but concluded the court erred in ordering Watchtower to produce Losch for deposition and the subsequent sanctions. The Court remanded for the trial court to consider the appropriate sanctions for Watchtower's violation of the document production order. "The initial measure should be a remedy that is less onerous than a terminating sanction."