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Valley Forge Insurance Co. v. Hartford Iron & Metal, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

January 25, 2017

VALLEY FORGE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTFORD IRON & METAL, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Susan Collins, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Appointment of Master to Oversee Discovery Pursuant to Rule 53(a)(1)(C) (DE 601) filed by Valley Forge Insurance Company (“Valley Forge”) on December 21, 2016, requesting that the Court appoint a master to oversee and manage the remaining discovery in this case. Defendants Hartford Iron & Metal, Inc., and Alan B. Goldberg d/b/a Hartford Iron & M (together, “Hartford Iron”) filed a response in opposition to the motion on January 10, 2017 (DE 615), and Valley Forge filed a reply on January 17, 2017 (DE 622). The matter is now ripe for ruling.

         For the following reasons, Valley Forge's motion for appointment of special master will be DENIED.

         A. Factual and Procedural Background

         Valley Forge filed this suit against Hartford Iron on January 10, 2014, claiming that Hartford Iron had breached a settlement agreement entered into by the parties in December 2012 that purported to settle the parties' respective rights and duties under certain insurance contracts relating to an environmental dispute. (DE 1). The factual background of this case is very complicated and known to the parties, and thus, the Court will not set forth a detailed factual summary here. The docket entries now exceed 600 in this case, and this litigation has been contentious since the outset.

         The Court conducted a preliminary pretrial conference on April 21, 2015, and set a discovery deadline of April 21, 2017. (DE 72). On October 16, 2015, Hartford Iron filed a motion to compel (DE 228), which was denied by the Court on November 4, 2015 (DE 262). On November 3, 2015, Valley Forge filed a motion to compel (DE 260), which the Court denied on November 18, 2015 (DE 272). On March 31, 2016, Hartford Iron filed a second motion to compel against certain third-party defendants (DE 418), and on May 4, 2016, several third-party defendants filed a motion to stay discovery (DE 446; DE 447); after a hearing, the Court ruled on these motions on June 1, 2016 (DE 462; DE 463).[1]

         Also on June 1, 2016, the Court held a further preliminary pretrial conference, affirming the discovery deadline of April 21, 2107, and setting the following deadlines: July 1, 2016, for Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures; January 3, 2017, for Rule 26(a)(2) disclosures by Valley Forge; January 31, 2017, for Rule 26(a)(2) disclosures by Hartford Iron; February 28, 2017, for rebuttal experts; September 30, 2016, for Valley Forge to seek leave to amend the pleadings or join additional parties; and October 31, 2016, for Hartford Iron to seek leave to amend the pleadings or join additional parties. (DE 463).

         Valley Forge filed two more motions to compel: one on May 27, 2016 (DE 458), and the other on September 12, 2016 (DE 516). Hartford Iron also filed two additional motions to compel: one on August 5, 2016 (DE 490), and the other on August 12, 2016 (DE 499). Hartford Iron then sought leave to conduct an extended deposition of Kathleen Coyle on October 7, 2016. (DE 533). Following a hearing (DE 563), the Court ruled on these five discovery-related motions on November 4, 2016 (DE 568). In doing so, the Court acknowledged that an in camera review may be necessary on Valley Forge's second motion to compel. (DE 568 at 8).

         On November 22, 2016, the District Judge denied a motion filed by Valley Forge on August 8, 2016, asking the Court to appoint a special master to oversee the remediation of the Hartford Iron site. (DE 491; DE 581). In doing so, the District Judge left the door open with respect to appointing a master at the parties' expense to address discovery matters if they proceeded in excess. (DE 581).

         On November 29, 2016, Valley Forge filed motions to stay (DE 589; DE 590) and motions for protective order (DE 587; DE 588), seeking to delay Hartford Iron's depositions of Valerie Rodriguez and Brian Frankl. The Court held a hearing and ruled on these motions on December 16, 2016. (DE 599).

         On December 28, 2016, Valley Forge petitioned the Court for an in camera review of documents at issue in its second motion to compel that Hartford Iron claims as privileged on its privilege log. (DE 606). The Court granted Valley Forge's motion on January 10, 2017, and scheduled the in camera review for February 22, 2017. (DE 614). Also on January 10, 2017, the Court granted several extension-related motions, extending the expert disclosure deadline for both parties to March 1, 2017, and the rebuttal expert deadline to March 22, 2017. (DE 614).

         Valley Forge filed the instant motion for appointment of special master (DE 601) on December 21, 2016, and the motion is now fully briefed.

         B. Applicable Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 53 provides that a court may appoint a master to “address pretrial and post-trial matters that cannot be effectively and timely addressed by an available district judge or magistrate judge in the district.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 53(a)(1)(C); see Borom v. Town of Merrillville, No. 2:07 CV 98, 2008 WL 155018, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 15, 2008). “The rule begins with a presumption against the appointment of special masters.” Borom, 2008 WL 155018, at *3 (citations omitted). That is, “the appointment of a special master is the exception and not the rule and . . . there must be a showing that some exceptional condition requires such an appointment.” Williams v. Lane, 851 F.2d 867, 884 (7th Cir. 1988) (citation omitted)). “The Supreme Court has made clear that routine considerations, such as the general complexity of the ...


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