Adams v. Homeward Residential, Inc.
ORDER denying 21 Motion to Stay Discovery; granting 23 Motion to Compel Discovery. To the extent Defendant has not done so, it is directed to supplement its discovery responses by January 31, 2014. Signed by Magistrate Judge Sonja F. Bivins on 1/15/2014. Copies to parties. (sdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ANNIE B. ADAMS,
: CIVIL ACTION NO. 13-00329-WS-B
Residential, Inc.’s Motion to Stay Discovery or Alternatively,
Scheduling Order (Doc. 21) and Plaintiff Annie Adams’ Motion to
motion to stay is DENIED, and Plaintiff’s motion to compel is
Plaintiff filed this action in June 2013 as a purported
engaged in deceptive collection activity by failing to comply
with the requirements of 15 U.S.C. § 1692g. Counsel for the
The complaint was amended on December 4, 2013. A copy of a
letter referenced in the original complaint was attached as an
exhibit to the amended complaint. (Doc. 19).
parties met, and pursuant to the Court’s preliminary scheduling
order, submitted a joint report of the parties’ planning meeting
on September 9, 2013.
In the report, Plaintiff took
the position that discovery should focus on class discovery and
the merits of her claim.
(Doc. 9 at 2).
Defendant took the
position that discovery should focus on “the propriety of class
certification, and not on the merits of the case.”
September 11, 2013, the court entered a Rule 16(b) scheduling
certification issues, and is to be completed by March 14, 2014.
Plaintiff served discovery requests on Defendant on
September 9, 2013. (Doc. 21-1).
Defendant’s discovery responses
Plaintiff’s counsel repeatedly contacted defense counsel about
alleged deficiencies with the responses.
(Doc. 23 at 2-3).
On December 10, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss
and a motion seeking an order staying discovery or bifurcating
In the motion to stay (Doc. 21), Defendant argues that all
discovery should be stayed because Plaintiff has failed to state
a claim for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
discovery on class certification issues prior to a ruling on
Defendant’s motion to dismiss would be prejudicial to Defendant
because it will have to expend significant resources to comply
with expansive discovery requests on issues that may not survive
alternative, Defendant contends that the Court should bifurcate
discovery so that the initial discovery focuses solely on the
merits of Plaintiff’s claim, and only broadened discovery if
issues relating to Plaintiff’s claims are decided in her favor.
efforts to delay discovery in this case.
further argues that counsel for the parties met and agreed to a
discovery plan that did not provide for bifurcated discovery;
thus, Defendant should not be allowed to belatedly alter the
discovery schedule in this case.
Plaintiff also asserts
that contrary to Defendant’s assertion, the Manual for Complex
Litigation Third does not contemplate “merits” discovery first,
(Id. at 4).
Plaintiff has asserted similar
arguments in its motion to compel discovery.
opposing Plaintiff’s motion to compel, Defendant again argues
motion to dismiss is pending would require Defendant to expend
requests on issues that may not survive the motion to dismiss.
Courts have “broad discretion over the management of pretrial activities, including discovery and scheduling.”
v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Ga., 263 F.3d 1234, 1269 (11th
Further, the Eleventh Circuit has observed that
whenever possible, facial challenges to the legal sufficiency of
a complaint, raised in a dispositive motion to dismiss, should
be resolved before discovery begins.
Cotton v. Massachusetts
Mut. Life Ins. Co., 402 F.3d 1267, 1292 (11th Cir. 2005); see
also Moore v. Potter, 141 F. Appx. 803, 807-08 (11th Cir. 2005)
(unpublished)2 (upholding the staying of discovery until ruling
on the defendant's motion to dismiss).
Of course, the rationale
for such is that early resolution of
purely legal questions
obviates the need for costly discovery.
See Chudasama v. Mazda
Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1367-68 (11th Cir. 1997) (discussing
the various costs of discovery, which can be avoided if a court
dismisses a nonmeritorious claim before discovery has begun).
In the case at hand, Defendant filed the pending motion to
precedent, but they may be cited as persuasive authority.” 11TH
CIR. R. 36-2 (2005).
dismiss at least three months after the scheduling order had
been entered and after discovery was well underway.
the motion to dismiss is based on information that was readily
available to Defendant, it is not clear why Defendant did not
seek a stay on the front end, but instead waited until the
parties were fully engaged in discovery to seek a stay.
clear, however, is that halting discovery at this stage will
interfere with the scheduling order that is in place, and will
result in unnecessary delay if the motion to dismiss is denied.
The risk that Defendant will be forced to engage in needless
discovery could have been addressed early on had Defendant acted
promptly in filing its dispositive motion and request for a
circumstances of this case, a stay of discovery at this juncture
is not appropriate.
As noted supra, before entry of the scheduling
order in this case, counsel for the parties conferred and filed
a Rule 26(f) report wherein both parties agreed that discovery
should focus on the propriety of class certification.
arguing, during the height of discovery, that discovery should
be confined to the claims of the named Plaintiff.
Defendant’s motion to stay discovery is DENIED, and Plaintiff’s
motion to compel is GRANTED.
To the extent Defendant has not
done so, it is directed to supplement its discovery responses by
January 31, 2014.
DONE this the 15th day of January, 2014.
/s/ SONJA F. BIVINS
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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