Ralph BURKYBILE, Plaintiff, v. MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORPORATION, a foreign corporation, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, Inc., a foreign corporation, Amaki Iron Works Co., Ltd., a foreign corporation, Defendants United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division October 17, 2006 Counsel Robert J. Dargis, Richard F. Mallen, Law Office Of Richard F. Mallen, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff. Stanley V. Boychuck, Anthony Joseph Monaco, John Paul Arranz, Swanson, Martin &amp; Bell, LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendants. Cole, Jeffrey, United States Magistrate Judge REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION *1 Plaintiff has moved for an entry of a default judgment against the defendants as a discovery sanction under Rule 37(b)(2). The case is here pursuant to Chief Judge Holderman's referral. This motion stems from the defendants' response to my Memorandum Opinion and Order of August 2, 2006, which granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff's motion to compel. Two parts of that order are pertinent to the present dispute: the limited discovery of documents pertaining to defendants' warranty claim information and the defendants' responses to requests to admit and document requests regarding claimed statements by corporate officers at a February 15, 2001 news conference. See Burkybile v. Mitsubishi Motors Corp., 2006 WL 2325506 (N.D.Ill.2006). I. STATEMENTS BY CORPORATE OFFICERS Plaintiff requested that defendants produce any verbatim renditions of statements allegedly made by Mitsubishi officers and also sought to have the defendants admit or deny whether the specific statements were in fact made. After considering the parties' positions, I found that: While it is possible that the defendants do not have any verbatim recordings or transcripts of the statements at issue, they must provide plaintiff with a definitive answer as to whether they do. As for the requests to admit, defendants must respond. Failure to properly respond to those requests to admit will result in them being deemed admitted under Rule 36. See Burkybile, 2006 WL 2325506 at *9. The defendants' responses have not satisfied the plaintiff. Defendants, MMNA and Amaki, explain that the statements, if made, were made by MMC employees, so they felt their original answer could stand: that they had no verbatim recordings or transcripts of the statements and were unable to admit of deny whether the statements had been made. Despite the fact that the plaintiff is unhappy with it, the response is satisfactory-especially in light of MMC's response. MMC, who employed the two individuals who allegedly made the incriminatory statements, presents a different situation. MMC has said that there are no verbatim recordings or transcripts of the statements. In addition, it says that: MMC now represents that Takashi Sonobe passed away on October 28, 2003, and Akira Okamoto retired from MMC on June 29, 2004. Because of the foregoing, and despite a diligent search and reasonable inquiry, MMC lacks the information necessary to admit or deny this request. (Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, Ex. 4). Although the defendant insists that it has done all that is necessary, the plaintiff, predictably, has a different view. (Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, at 12). Requests for admission are not discovery devices; rather, they are “used to establish the truth or genuineness of a matter in order to eliminate the need to prove the matter at trial or to limit the triable issues of fact.” Taborn v. Unknown Officers, No. 00-652, 2001 WL 138908, *1 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 16, 2001) (quoting T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Fund, Inc. v. Oppenheimer &amp; Co., 174 F.R.D. 38, 42 (S.D.N.Y.1997)). Under Rule 36(a), “[a]n answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless the party states that the party has made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny.” “ ‘Reasonable inquiry includes investigation and inquiry of any of defendant's officers, administrators, agents, employees, servants, enlisted or other personnel, who conceivably, but in realistic terms, may have information which may lead to or furnish the necessary and appropriate response.’ “ T. Rowe Price, 174 F.R.D. at 42. Concerned Citizens of Belle Haven v. Belle Haven Club, 223 F.R.D. 39, 44 (D.Conn.2004). *2 It is not enough simply to posit, as MMC has done, that it has undertaken “a diligent search and reasonable inquiry.” Unadorned conclusions have no more place in this context than they have in the context of expert discovery or judicial opinion writing. One cannot tell whether Mr. Okamoto was even contacted. If he was not, whatever inquiry was done could scarcely be deemed reasonable. If he was, his response is unknown. Retirement is not an excuse for failure to contact the retiree and obtain, if possible, properly requested information. Cf. Keytrack, Inc. v. Key Register, LLC, No. 03-00870, 2004 WL 2944042, *2 (N.D.Cal. Mar. 12, 2004)(defendants were required to make inquiry of the independent contractors and distributors not under their control). The answer in its present form is not acceptable, and MMC should be required to detail the extent of its inquiry and search. If it fails to do so, there will be time enough to consider what course to follow. II. THE WARRANTY CLAIMS The defendants' supplemental response to the plaintiff's warranty claim requests are more troubling. Originally, the defendants were only able to adequately advance objections on the basis of relevance, timeliness, and undue burden. Burkybile, 2006 WL 2325506 at *6-7. It was clear that the plaintiff's discovery requests were timely, and were at least partially relevant-for the time period beginning in 1999. (Id. at 7-8). Even so, the defendants submitted that production of all documents from the relevant time frame reflecting warranty claims would be unduly burdensome, and that the plaintiff ought to be satisfied with the Quarterly Non-Compliance Reports submitted to the NHTSA. The plaintiff agreed that production of all documents reflecting warranty claims would be burdensome, but indicated he would be satisfied if the defendants produced “reports and data compilations which summarize, analyze, or categorize the basic warranty information [Request 2] and any documents that were utilized to compile the quarterly reports submitted to NHTSA for the three recalls at issue [Request 3].” (Id. at 8). I clearly expressed my agreement with the plaintiff that it was likely that there was “some compilation or summarization of information pertaining to the warranty claims, which allowed defendants to compile the quarterly reports.” (Id. at 8). Accordingly, I ordered defendants to “produce any such summaries, abstracts, or data compilations for the relevant time period beginning in 1999.” (Id.). The defendants have responded to this instruction thusly: REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO 2: Any reports, memos, correspondence, data compilation or other document summarizing, analyzing or categorizing any of the foregoing warranty information, in whole or in part, for any purpose. SUPPLEMENTAL RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 2: MMNA incorporates its initial objections that were sustained by the Court into this response. MMNA now responds that, after a diligent search and reasonable inquiry, it has not located “summaries, abstracts, or data compilations” that MMNA utilized to compile the previously produced defect and non-compliance information reports and quarterly reports. *3 REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO 3: Any documents, memos, reports, or data compilations utilized to compile, or which formed the basis of, any Quarterly Reports submitted to NHTSA for any of the 3 recalls mentioned in (1) above. SUPPLEMENTAL RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 3: MMNA incorporates its initial objections that were sustained by the Court into this response. MMNA now responds that, after a diligent search and reasonable inquiry, it has not located “summaries, abstracts, or data compilations” that MMNA utilized to compile the previously produced defect and non-compliance information reports and quarterly reports. (Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, Ex. 1, at 3-4). Plaintiff argues that, while Supplemental Response No. 2 might be appropriate, Supplemental response No. 3 is not. Defendant argues that plaintiff's motion to compel was only partially granted, and that request no. 3 is far broader than the variety of documents covered in the Memorandum Opinion and Order. Defendants' reading of the order, however, is overly restrictive. Literalism has its place. But not here. The Memorandum Opinion and Order required defendant to produce information that what used in the preparation of the NHTSA reports short of the perhaps hundreds of thousands of documents relating to actual warranty claims. But it distorts and evades the order to conclude that since the actual compilations no longer exist, nothing need be produced. Yet, this is precisely what the defendant has done through the declaration of Kent Reeves, an MMNA employee who was responsible for preparing the NHTSA reports. (Defendants' Response in Opposition, Ex. C): In preparing the previously produced Quarterly Reports and Defect and Noncompliance Information Reports, I would ask that certain compilations of raw data required by the NHTSA be collected from the database, sorted by category and printed out. The print outs no longer exist, and the reporting requirements for the recall campaigns are no longer in effect. Nevertheless, MMNA conducted a diligent search and reasonable inquiry for documents responsive to the Court's Order, but MMNA did not locate such documents. Further, the database searches that I asked to be performed to prepare the Quarterly Reports and Defect and Noncompliance Information Reports cannot be accurately recreated at this point in time since, among other reasons, where the raw data is kept is a live, ever changing database. (Ex. C, ¶ 6). Mr. Reeves' declaration cannot justify the defendants' failure to produce anything in response to the Memorandum Opinion and Order. He does not say that the “raw data” does not exist. Quite the contrary, he concedes that the information-which covers a relatively recent period of time-“is” presently in existence in a “database.” The difficulty, he says, is in “accurately recreat [ing]” the particular database searches that generated the documents that he claims no longer exist. And that difficulty stems from the fact that “where the raw data is kept is a live, ever changing database.” *4 Fairly read, Mr. Reeves declaration means only that he is unable to reproduce the precise database searches because the database is, in some way, not exactly what it was at some earlier point in time. He does not say, nor could he with any degree of credibility, that the data that ultimately was utilized to comply with government reporting requirements has ceased to exist. It is that data, in whatever form it may exist, that is critical. The Memorandum Opinion and Order required production not only of documents but of “data compilations.” That would clearly include the very database that MMNA consulted to prepare the NHTSA reports; the database Mr. Reeves refers to throughout his declaration. It may in fact be the database, like some sort of digital organism, changes over time. But it does not follow that the critical underlying information is no longer obtainable at all. Perhaps the information utilized by Mr. Reeves in preparing the reports can no longer be reproduced identically to that which he utilized. But it does not follow that there cannot be some reasonable approximation that will give to the plaintiff the information ordered be produced. MMNA's narrow interpretation of the Memorandum Opinion and Order calls to mind Crown Life Ins. Co. v. Craig, 995 F.2d 1376 (7th Cir.1993). At issue there was the defendant's request for documents reflecting “summaries or calculations of renewal commissions” and “documents relating to the calculation of commissions.” The requests became part of a discovery order. Nevertheless, the plaintiff failed to produce the requested information because the responsive “data [was] not ‘documents' because it was never in any hard copy form and [defendant] requested ‘written documents.’ 995 F .2d at 1382. The Court of Appeals noted that the Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 34(a) make clear that a discovery opponent cannot so easily thwart its responsibilities. Commenting on data compilations, the Committee stated, “when the data can as a practical matter be made usable by the discovering party only through respondent's devices, respondent may be required to use his devices to translate the data into usable form. In many instances, this means that respondent will have to supply a print-out of computer data.” Rule 34(a) advisory committee's note (1970 amendment (emphasis supplied)). The court, relying on the Committee's comment, found that the plaintiff violated the discovery order. The resultant sanction was, essentially, a default judgment against the plaintiff. 995 F.2d at 1381-83. Here, the data requested exists in a database. It is no matter that the original printouts are no longer available. All Mr. Reeves avers is that “the database searches [he] asked to be performed to prepare the [NHTSA] reports cannot be accurately recreated at this point in time....” But they can be recreated, even if not exactly. The important fact is that the data compilation used to prepare the reports is accessible. Somewhat similarly, the plaintiff in Crown Life Ins. argued that the raw data at issue was not accessible at the time of the discovery request. The court ruled that even if the plaintiff could not access the data, that did not mean it was not discoverable or that it did not exist; there was a duty to make the data available. 995 F.2d at 1383. Here, conversely, MMNA admits that the data exists and that it can be accessed. *5 That MMNA cannot exactly recreate the searches performed to prepare the NHTSA reports is a problem that pales by comparison with the plaintiff's difficulties in Crown Life Ins. Plaintiff asks that default judgment be entered against MMNA for its noncompliance with the discovery order. Rule 37(b), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, authorizes sanctions for failure to comply with discovery orders. The court may bar the disobedient party from introducing certain evidence, or it may direct that certain facts shall be “taken to be established for the purposes of the action....” The Rule also permits the trial court to strike claims from the pleadings, and even to “dismiss the action ... or render a judgment by default against the disobedient party.” See Roadway Exp., Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 763-764 (1980); National Hockey League v. Metropolitan Hockey Club, 427 U.S. 639 (1976)(per curiam ). This does not mean, however, that a court possesses unfettered discretion to impose sanctions upon a recalcitrant party. Instead, “ ‘the sanction selected must be one that a reasonable jurist, apprised of all the circumstances, would have chosen as proportionate to the infraction.’ “ In re Golant, 239 F.3d 931, 937 (7th Cir.2001). Cf. People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Ed., 111 F.3d 528, 534 (7th Cir.1997)(Posner, J.)( “It should go without saying that equitable remediation must be guided by norms of proportionality.”). “Particular attention must be paid to this limitation on a court's discretion when a court dismisses a cause outright (or, as here, enters default judgment)-a sanction to be used “ ‘only in extreme situations.’ “ Golant, 239 F.3d at 937. In this case, entry of default judgment seems an inappropriately harsh sanction. Requiring compliance with the Memorandum Opinion and Order coupled with the mandatory award of fees under Rule 37, Rickels v. City of South Bend, Indiana, 33 F.3d 785, 786 (7th Cir.1994)(“ ‘The great operative principle of Rule 37(a)(4) is that the loser pays.’ ”), is a more appropriate sanction and one which best accords with the principle of proportionality. MMNA has admitted that the necessary warranty data exists in a database and in some form is accessible. Accordingly, MMNA should be required to provide a printout of that data relevant to the pertinent time period. If that is somehow proven to be impossible-and it will take a good deal more than the kind of declaration Mr. Reeves has provided thus far-MMNA should either provide a printout of all the warranty data or make the data available to plaintiff as was indicated in Crown Life Ins. and the Advisory Committee's notes to the 1970 amendment. CONCLUSION While the defendants' additional responses are not fully compliant with my earlier order, I do not recommend entry of a default judgment. The plaintiff's briefs have done nothing to show his entitlement to so drastic a sanction beyond string-citing cases that hold that entry of a default judgment can, in appropriate circumstances, be entered as a sanction for intransigence in discovery. That is not enough, for “general propositions do not decide concrete cases.” Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 76 (1905)(Holmes, J., dissenting). See also Daubert v. Merrell Dow, 509 U.S. 579, 598 (1993)(Rehnquist, C.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)(“ ‘general observations' “ suffer from the common flaw that they are not applied to the specific matter and “therefore they tend to be not only general, but vague and abstract .”). It is not for a judge to make the case either for or against a party. Tyler v. Runyon, 70 F.3d 458, 466 (7th Cir.1995). As Judge Posner has explained, “[i]f we assume the lawyers' responsibilities, we unbalance the market for legal services and take time away from our consideration and decision of other cases.” Luddington v. Indiana Bell Telephone Co., 966 F.2d 225, 230 (7th Cir.1992). See also United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 655 (1984); Dal Pozzo v. Basic Machinery Co., Inc., 2006 WL 2548250 at *4 (7th Cir.2006); Bretford Mfg., Inc. v. Smith System Mfg. Corp., 419 F.3d 576, 581 (7th Cir.2005). *6 For the foregoing reasons, it is recommended that the plaintiff's motion for a default judgment as a discovery sanction against the defendants be DENIED, but that the defendants be ordered to amend their discovery responses as indicated in this report and recommendation. Footnotes  In so ruling, the court again resorted to the Advisory Committee notes' discussion of the 1970 Amendment: It makes clear that Rule 34 applies to electronic data compilations from which information can be obtained only with the use of detection devices, and that when the data can as a practical matter be made usable by the discovering party only through respondent's devices, respondent may be required to use his devices to translate the data into usable form.... Similarly, if the discovering party needs to check the electronic source itself, the court may protect respondent with respect to preservation of his records, confidentiality of nondiscoverable matters, and costs. 995 F.2d at 1383.  Dismissal of cases as a sanction for discovery violations must be balanced with the overarching preference that cases be decided on their merits where possible. Compare Hormel v. Helvering, 312 U .S. 552, 557-58 (1941); Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. 312, 316 (1988); Fuhrer v. Fuhrer, 292 F.2d 140 (7th Cir.1961).