United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
Fletcher, Plaintiff pro se
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATE DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Stay of
Proceedings and for Court-Sourced Expert Witness for Legal
Malpractice [DE 167], filed by pro se Plaintiff Paul Fletcher
on April 3, 2017. Defendant Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP
(HWE) filed a response on April 5, 2017, and Plaintiff filed
a reply on April 17, 2017. This matter is also before the
Court on Defendant Wayne Golomb's Motion to Join
Co-Defendant Hoeppner Wagner & Evans, LLP's Response
[DE 170], filed by Defendant Wayne Golomb on April 10, 2017;
the motion is unopposed.
initial matter, the Court notes that Northern District of
Indiana Local Rule 7-1(a) requires that motions be filed
separately. In the interests of justice, the Court considers
both requests for relief in the instant motion. However, any
future failure to comply with Local Rule 7-1(a) may result in
the motion being stricken.
Motion to Stay
asks the Court to stay this matter pending a ruling on a
Motion for Transfer that he filed on December 16, 2016, in a
related matter in the Southern District of Indiana,
Indianapolis Division, Cause No. 1:16-CV-2453.
case in the Southern District of Indiana stems from the
underlying matter from which the malpractice claims in the
instant case arose. On August 4, 2016, while the proceedings
in the underlying matter were still in the state court, the
state court entered a directed verdict for Defendant Zupan in
that case. Subsequently, Plaintiff's attorney in that
case, of the firm Alerding Castor Hewitt, filed a claim
against Plaintiff for $115, 000 in legal fees. Plaintiff
counter-sued for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty,
and breach of contract. On September 14, 2016, Plaintiff
removed that action from state court to the United States
District Court for the Southern District of Indiana with the
intention of moving to consolidate it with the instant cause
November 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Consolidate in
the instant case, asking this Court to consolidate the case
in the Southern District of Indiana with the instant case.
This Court denied the motion on December 5, 2016, on the
basis that this Court cannot consolidate cases pending in
different districts and that the case in the Southern
District of Indiana would have to be transferred to this
district before a motion to consolidate could be entertained.
December 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Transfer in
the case pending in the Southern District of Indiana. That
motion has been fully briefed since January 7, 2017, and
instant motion, Plaintiff asks this Court to stay this case
until the case in the Southern District of Indiana is
transferred to this district and the cases are consolidated.
The Court has the inherent authority to manage its docket,
including the authority to stay proceedings: “[T]he
power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent
in every court to control the disposition of the causes on
its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am.
Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936), quoted in Tex. Indep.
Producers & Royalty Owners Ass'n v.
EPA, 410 F.3d 964, 980 (7th Cir. 2004). When deciding
whether to stay an action, courts often consider the
following factors: (1) whether a stay will unduly prejudice
or tactically disadvantage the non-moving party; (2) whether
a stay will simplify the issues in question and streamline
the trial; and (3) whether a stay will reduce the burden of
litigation on the parties and on the court. Tap Parm.
Prods., Inc. v. Atrix Labs., Inc., No. 03 C 7822, 2004
WL 422697, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2004). This decision
“calls for the exercise of judgment, which must weigh
competing interests and maintain an even balance.”
Landis, 299 U.S. at 254-55 (citing Kansas City
Southern R. Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 760, 763
(1931)). The United States Supreme Court explained that the
movant “for a stay must make out a clear case of
hardship or inequity in being required to go forward, if
there is even a fair possibility that the stay for which he
prays will work damage to some one else.” Id.
argues that his counterclaim in the underlying lawsuit and
his claims in this case are both legal malpractice claims and
that all attorneys were negligent in their representation of
him in the underlying matter. Plaintiff argues that a stay w
ill preserve judicial resources, duplicative efforts, and
prevent inconsistent determinations. Plaintiff also argues
that it would be more efficient to consolidate and have one
legal malpractice expert. And, Plaintiff argues that it is
not fair that Alerding Castor Hewitt and HWE will get to
point fingers at each other to escape liability.
discovery has been closed in this case since October 28,
2016. On March 8, 2017, the undersigned Magistrate Judge
denied Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider the Court's
previous rulings to extend the discovery deadline. On April
25, 2017, presiding judge Rudy Lozano overruled
Plaintiff's objection to the March 8, 2017 Order, brought
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). Thus,
discovery in this case is closed. Plaintiff has not disclosed
a malpractice expert. The proceedings in this case have
advanced considerably, while the case pending in the Southern
District of Indiana is in the early stages of discovery.
although the parties and issues need not be identical to
warrant a stay, see Landis, 299 U.S. at 254, the
attorney defendants in both cases were involved in the
underlying litigation at different stages of that litigation
and they appear to have acted independently of each other.
Therefore, the issues relevant to the alleged malpractice of
each attorney are distinct. Also, the claims against
Defendant Golomb are not malpractice claims; and, he has a
motion for summary judgment pending. Thus, a stay will not
simplify the issues and the trial.
Plaintiff is correct that the merits of the underlying
litigation are relevant to the malpractice claims in both
cases. However, Defendants in this case have diligently
pursued the defense of this matter, which, as noted, is at
the later stages of the proceedings. To now stay these
proceedings would prejudice these Defendants in their
interest in the prompt ...