In Ambler v. Archer, 230 Ga. 281, 288-290 (196 SE2d 858)(1972), the Supreme Court addressed "what sanctions should attach to disobedience of the order of the court directing the parties to agree on a pre-trial order, or upon the failure of counsel to attend a pre-trial conference previously set by order of the court, and participate in the making of the pre-trial order which was finally entered." Id. at 288-289.
After recognizing that the trial court must have the power "to impose appropriate sanctions to make effective its pre-trial orders," the Supreme Court noted that "'contempt may at times be proper; and in an extreme case the plaintiff's action may be dismissed or the defendant precluded from introducing evidence relating to his defense, but these remedies are too drastic if less harsh sanctions are appropriate.'" Id. at 289.
The Supreme Court of Georgia addressed the question of appropriate sanctions for failure to appear at a pre-trial hearing.
Less drastic sanctions, such as contempt and an award of attorney fees, are preferred over striking an answer because they allow the presentation of the merits of the case.
The Court conclude that the "withdrawal from the defendant of the right to introduce any evidence in his own behalf bearing upon the issues of fact in the case was unduly harsh and an abuse of discretion."