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Hudson v. ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

June 8, 2017

TODD HUDSON, as personal representative of the Estate of WILLIAM HUDSON, Deceased, Plaintiff,


          Andrew P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on the Emergency Motion to Stay Expert Discovery, Compel Discovery Responses and for Leave to Conduct Additional Fact Discovery [DE 29] filed by the defendant, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, LLC, on April 26, 2017. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         William Hudson died while snowplowing at the ArcelorMittal facility on January 9, 2014. The plaintiff, Todd Hudson as Personal Representative of the Estate of William Hudson, deceased, has alleged that the defendant, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, LLC, was negligent in failing to warn Hudson of a snow-covered manhole cover. Hudson unexpectedly hit the manhole cover triggering a cardiac event that led to his death.

         On November 9, 2016, the parties filed a Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery [DE 22]. In light of the parties' agreement, the court set the following scheduling deadlines: all fact discovery completed by February 15, 2017; plaintiff's expert witness disclosures and reports submitted by March 15, 2017; and defendant's expert witness disclosures and reports submitted by May 18, 2017. The plaintiff has indicated that fact discovery was completed timely and that there were no issues, complaints, objections, or outstanding matters raised by either party. On March 15, 2017, the plaintiff disclosed six expert witnesses and provided their reports to ArcelorMittal. The parties then scheduled dates for plaintiff's experts to be deposed. The parties deposed three of the experts as scheduled, but following Coroner Chuck Harris' deposition on April 19, 2017, ArcelorMittal filed this motion requesting that expert discovery be stayed and that fact discovery be reopened. The plaintiff's remaining three experts have not been deposed. ArcelorMittal also has requested that the plaintiff supplement Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures and the response to Interrogatory No. 20.

         ArcelorMittal did not file a separate Local Rule 37.1 certification along with its Emergency Motion to Stay Expert Discovery, Compel Discovery Responses and for Leave to Conduct Additional Fact Discovery [DE 29]. However, ArcelorMittal indicated in the motion that counsel had conferred telephonically with plaintiff's counsel regarding the requested discovery extension.


         “A party filing any discovery motion must file a separate certification that the party has conferred in good faith or attempted to confer with other affected parties in an effort to resolve the matter raised in the motion without court action.” N.D. Ind. L.R. 37-1(a). The certification must include the date, time, and place of any conference or attempted conference and the names of any participating parties. N.D. Ind. L.R. 37-1(a)(1) and (2). The court may deny any motion that failed to include the required certification. N.D. Ind. L.R. 37-1(b).

         ArcelorMittal has indicated in the motion that it conferred with plaintiff's counsel and that counsel objected to the request for a discovery extension. The court will address the underlying issues rather than denying ArcelorMittal's motion pursuant to Local Rule 37-1 and simply delaying a resolution of this dispute. See Felling v. Knight, 2001 WL 1782361, at *1 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 21, 2001) (“[T]he briefs leave little doubt that the parties will not reach mutual agreement on the issues raised. Therefore, the court will address the underlying issues rather than deny the motion solely on the basis of a procedural shortcoming. To hold otherwise would do little other than delay resolution of these issues . . . .”).

         ArcelorMittal has requested that the court stay expert discovery and that it reopen fact discovery for an additional 30 days. The court has incidental power to stay proceedings, which stems from its inherent power to manage its docket. Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254- 55, 57 S.Ct. 163, 166, 81 L.Ed. 153 (1936); Tonn & Blank Constr., LLC v. Sebelius, 968 F.Supp.2d 990, 992 (N.D. Ind. 2013). The decision to grant a stay is committed to the sound discretion of the court and must be exercised consistent with principles of fairness and judicial economy. Brooks v. Merck & Co., 443 F.Supp.2d 994, 997 (S.D. Ill. 2006); Rutherford v. Merck & Co., 428 F.Supp.2d 842, 845 (S.D. Ill. 2006); Walker v. Monsanto Co. Pension Plan, 472 F.Supp.2d 1053, 1054 (S.D. Ill. 2006). “Courts often consider the following factors when deciding whether to stay an action: (i) whether a stay will unduly prejudice or tactically disadvantage the non-moving party, (ii) whether a stay will simplify the issues in question and streamline the trial, and (iii) whether a stay will reduce the burden of litigation on the parties and on the court.” Abbott Labs. v. Matrix Labs., Inc., 2009 WL 3719214, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 5, 2009). “The general test for imposing a stay requires the court to ‘balance interests favoring a stay against interests frustrated by the action' in light of the ‘court's paramount obligation to exercise jurisdiction timely in cases properly before it.'” SanDisk Corp. v. Phison Elecs. Corp., 538 F.Supp.2d 1060, 1066 (W.D. Wis. 2008) (citing Cherokee Nation of Okla. v. United States, 124 F.3d 1413, 1416 (Fed.Cir.1997)). The moving party must show good cause to stay discovery. Castrillon v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 2011 WL 4538089, at *1 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 29, 2011) (applying Rule 26(c) good cause standard to motion to stay); DSM Desotech, Inc. v. 3D Sys. Corp., 2008 WL 4812440, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Oct.28, 2008) (same).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) provides that a schedule shall not be modified except upon a showing of good cause and by leave of the court. See Campania Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. Rooks, Pitts & Poust, 290 F.3d 843, 851 (7th Cir. 2002); Briesacher v. AMG Res., Inc., 2005 WL 2105908, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 31, 2005). Good cause sufficient for altering discovery deadlines is demonstrated when a party shows that, “despite their diligence, the established timetable could not be met.” Tschantz v. McCann, 160 F.R.D. 568, 571 (N.D. Ind. 1995).

         ArcelorMittal has requested that fact discovery be reopened for counsel to take the fact depositions of Dr. Dali and Deputy Coroner Dave Atkins. ArcelorMittal has indicated that it initially was reported that Dr. Dali had agreed to sign Hudson's death certificate. Therefore, ArcelorMittal has argued that it is unclear what information was provided to Dr. Dali by plaintiff's counsel or considered by him that later prompted him not to sign the death certificate. ArcelorMittal contends that the information considered by Dr. Dali was not disclosed in discovery, provided as foundational fact or data in his expert report, or included in the plaintiff's Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures. The plaintiff contends that ArcelorMittal unilaterally canceled Dr. Dali's deposition, and therefore it has not had the opportunity to question Dr. Dali regarding these issues.

         ArcelorMittal requested in the Motion to Compel the Limited Non-Expert Medical Discovery Depositions of Coroner Harris and Dr. Sammi M. Dali, M.D. [DE 25] filed on December 2, 2016, that it depose Dr. Dali both in his non-expert capacity and as an expert. On January 24, 2017, the court issued an Opinion and Order [DE 28] indicating that there was no reason for ArcelorMittal to take Dr. Dali's deposition twice. The court reasoned that ArcelorMittal would have time to depose Dr. Dali, as well as have ample time to prepare its experts. ArcelorMittal has not indicated that there has been a significant change in the law or facts since it originally presented this issue to the court.

         Next, ArcelorMittal has indicated that Harris testified to the involvement of an additional witness, Deputy Coroner Atkins, who assisted in the investigation of Hudson's death. Atkins' involvement in Hudson's death investigation was disclosed in the Coroner's Verdict, which was produced to ArcelorMittal's counsel in plaintiff's Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures. Therefore, ArcelorMittal should have been aware that Atkins was involved in Hudson's death investigation since the beginning of this matter, and it had every opportunity to seek additional information from him during fact discovery. ArcelorMittal has not offered a legitimate reason for not deposing Atkins earlier or any new evidence to the contrary. ArcelorMittal has not demonstrated good cause that, “despite its diligence the established ...

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