Guarino v. Auburn University et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER as follows: (1) Henderson's 32 Motion to Dismiss is DENIED; (2) Auburn University's 35 Motion to Clarify is DENIED; (3) Guarino's 40 Motion for Leave of Court to Allow Plaintiff's Counterclaim to the Counterclaim of defendant Shannon Henderson, is DENIED. The Clerk is directed to strike Guarino's 37 Counterclaim to the Counterclaim of defendant Shannon Henderson from the record. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 11/17/09. (sl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA E A S T E R N DIVISION A N T H O N Y J. GUARINO, P la in tif f , v. A U B U R N UNIVERSITY, et al., D e f e n d a n ts. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )
C A S E NO. 3:09-cv-0080-MEF (W O ¯ D o Not Publish)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T h is cause is before the Court on Defendant Shannon Henderson's ("Henderson") M o tio n to Dismiss, filed on September 30, 2009 (Doc. # 32), Auburn University's 1 M o tio n to Clarify, filed on October 15, 2009 (Doc. # 35), and Plaintiff Anthony J. G u a rin o 's ("Guarino") Motion for Leave of Court to Allow Plaintiff's Counterclaim to th e Counterclaim of Defendant Shannon Henderson, filed on October 30, 2009. (Doc. # 40.) For the following reasons, this Court will deny all of the above motions. T h e s e motions arise out of a disagreement between the parties about this Court's re s p o n s e to the Joint Stipulation of Dismissal filed by Guarino and Defendants Auburn U n iv e rs ity, Jay Gogue, John Heilman, Frances Kochan, Mary Ellen Mazey, and Kelly G. T a ylo r (collectively "the Auburn defendants") on August 21, 2009. (Doc. # 22.) In the J o in t Stipulation, Guarino and the Auburn defendants agreed to the following:
Auburn University is no longer a party to this case. This Court dismissed Auburn University from the case on August 28, 2009, pursuant to the stipulation at issue in the motions now before the Court.
Guarino hereby dismisses his complaint (doc. no. 1), his claims against A u b u rn should be dismissed with prejudice, and each party should bear its o w n fees, costs, and expenses. (D o c . # 22 at 1.) In response, on August 28, 2009, this Court dismissed Guarino's claims a g a in s t the Auburn defendants with prejudice, but did not dismiss Guarino's complaint in its entirety or his claims against Henderson, the sole remaining defendant in the case and th e only party to this lawsuit who did not sign the Joint Stipulation. (Doc. # 23.) Rather, th e Court ordered that Guarino's claims "as set forth in the complaint remain against all o th e r defendants . . . ." (Id.) Henderson now moves to dismiss Guarino's claims against h e r with prejudice, arguing that the Court should have honored the precise language of th e Joint Stipulation, which dismissed Guarino's complaint in its entirety. T h e Court disagrees. Civil litigation in the federal courts is governed by the F e d e ra l Rules of Civil Procedure, even though no party to this action bothered to cite to th e m in making their arguments. Specifically, Rule 41(a) provides for voluntary d is m is s a ls. First, under Rule 41(a)(1), a plaintiff may dismiss an action without obtaining th e consent of the district court either "by filing: (i) a notice of dismissal before the o p p o sin g party serves either an answer or a motion for summary judgment; or (ii) a s tip u la tio n of dismissal signed by all parties who have appeared." Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 1 (a )(1 ) (emphasis added). Neither prong applies in this case. Guarino and the Auburn d e f e n d a n ts filed the Joint Stipulation after the Auburn defendants and Henderson had s e rv e d their answers, and Henderson, who had already appeared in this case, did not sign
the Joint Stipulation. See Negron v. City of Miami Beach, Fla., 113 F.3d 1563, 1571 (1 1 th Cir. 1997) (upholding the denial of voluntary dismissal because there was no in d ic a tio n in the record that all the parties to the lawsuit had agreed to the Rule 4 1 (a )(1 )(ii) motion). R u le 41(a)(2) provides the other avenue for a voluntary dismissal. It states: " E x c e p t as provided in Rule 41(a)(1), an action may be dismissed at the plaintiff's request o n ly by court order, on terms that the court considers proper." Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2) (e m p h a s is added). Under Rule 41(a)(2), "[a] voluntary dismissal without prejudice is not a matter of right." Fisher v. P.R. Marine Mgmt., Inc., 940 F.2d 1502, 1502 (11th Cir. 1 9 9 1 ). "The decision to grant or deny a Rule 41(a)(2) motion to dismiss an action w ith o u t prejudice is entrusted to the sound discretion of the district court; thus, a plaintiff h o ld s no right to such dismissal." In re Bayshore Ford Trucks Sales, Inc., 471 F.3d 1233, 1 2 5 9 (11th Cir. 2006) (emphasis added). "What is more, in exercising its discretion, the c o u rt must keep in mind the interests of the defendant, for Rule 41(a)(2) exists chiefly for p ro te c tio n of defendants." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). In light of this discretion, this Court decided to dismiss only Guarino's claims a g a in s t the Auburn defendants because both Guarino and the Auburn defendants had s tip u la te d to the dismissal and because they were the only parties to the action who had a s ta k e in the disposition of those claims. By contrast, this Court decided not to dismiss G u a rin o 's complaint in its entirety or his claims against Henderson because Henderson
had not stipulated to the dismissal and because the Joint Stipulation did not provide any a d d itio n a l or persuasive reasons for dismissal or explain why Henderson's compulsory c o u n te rc la im s would not be prejudiced by dismissal. E v e n if the Court had been inclined to allow Guarino and the Auburn defendants to force the dismissal of Guarino's claims against Henderson and Henderson's c o u n te rc la im s against Guarino, it would not have dismissed those claims with prejudice, a s Henderson now asks. The Joint Stipulation specifically requested that Guarino's c la im s against the Auburn defendants be dismissed with prejudice; the logical inference is th a t the dismissal of any other part of the complaint, including Guarino's claims against H e n d e rs o n , would be without prejudice. T h is cause is also before the Court on two other motions filed by Auburn U n iv e rs ity and Guarino. First, Auburn University's Motion to Clarify merely supports H e n d e rs o n 's Motion to Dismiss by reference to a settlement agreement between Guarino a n d the Auburn defendants. In that settlement agreement, Guarino may have agreed to d is m is s his claims against Henderson. The settlement agreement, however, is a contract f o rm e d outside the course of the proceedings in this case, and it is not binding on this C o u rt. Whether the Auburn defendants or Henderson may have claims against Guarino, o r vice versa, for breach of that agreement is not part of this case either. Thus, the Court w ill deny the motion. S e c o n d , Guarino characterized his motion for leave to file a counterclaim as an
alternative that this Court should address only if it decides to grant Henderson's Motion to Dismiss. Therefore, because this Court will deny Henderson's motion, Guarino's m o tio n is moot. A c c o rd in g ly, it is hereby ORDERED as follows: 1. is DENIED. 2. A u b u rn University's Motion to Clarify, filed on October 15, 2009 (Doc. H e n d e rs o n 's Motion to Dismiss, filed on September 30, 2009 (Doc. # 32),
# 35), is DENIED. 3. Guarino's Motion for Leave of Court to Allow Plaintiff's Counterclaim to
th e Counterclaim of Defendant Shannon Henderson, filed on October 30, 2009 (Doc. # 40), is DENIED. The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to strike Guarino's C o u n te rc la im to the Counterclaim of Defendant Shannon Henderson, filed on October 16, 2 0 0 9 (Doc. # 37), from the record. DONE this the 17th day of November, 2009.
/s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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