Sundance, LLC et al v. SE Property Holdings, LLC
ORDER denying 80 Motion for Leave to File Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter is referred to the Magistrate Judge for a the scheduling of a settlement conference. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 6/8/2015. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SUNDANCE, LLC, et al.,
SE PROPERTY HOLDINGS, LLC,
) CIVIL ACTION 14-0115-WS-C
This matter is before the Court on the motion of one plaintiff (“Trammell”)1
for leave to file a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 80). The proposed motion
would address the sole remaining claim, i.e., the defendant’s counterclaim for
As Trammell has known since May 2014, the deadline for filing such
motions is February 13, 2015. (Doc. 21 at 3-4). Trammell filed no dispositive
motion by the established deadline. Even after the defendant filed a motion for
summary judgment on its counterclaim on February 3, 2015, (Doc. 61), Trammell
did not respond with his own such motion. Instead, on February 10, 2015, he filed
a motion to re-open discovery, (Doc. 67), because he had neglected to engage in
discovery on this claim during the ample discovery period that expired January 23,
2015. The Court denied that motion because Trammell “failed to seek the
information [he] needed to determine whether to pursue additional discovery
concerning the defendant’s counterclaim, and [his] lack of diligence precludes
[him] from demonstrating good cause to re-open discovery.” (Doc. 70 at 3).
The plaintiff is actually Tammy Carter as Administratrix of the Estate of Charles
H. Trammell, deceased. (Doc. 70 at 1 n.1). The plaintiff requests to be identified as
“Trammell.” (Doc. 80 at 1).
“We recognize that district courts enjoy broad discretion in deciding how
best to manage the cases before them.” Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123
F.3d 1353, 1366 (11th Cir. 1997). The Eleventh Circuit has repeatedly employed
this rule to uphold trial courts’ enforcement of deadlines. E.g., School Board of
Collier County v. K.C., 285 F.3d 977, 981-82 (11th Cir. 2002) (untimely expert
testimony); Enwonwu v. Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, 286 Fed. Appx. 586,
595 (11th Cir. 2008) (untimely motion for summary judgment); Edman v. Marano,
177 Fed. Appx. 884, 886 (11th Cir. 2006) (untimely request for mental
examination); cf. Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1027 (11th Cir. 2000)
(en banc) (“Parties opposing summary judgment are appropriately charged with
the responsibility of marshaling and presenting their evidence before summary
judgment is granted, not afterwards.”).
The underlying principles are clear. “[I]n order to ensure the orderly
administration of justice, [a trial court] has the authority and responsibility to set
and enforce reasonable deadlines.” Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc. v. Olin Corp., 313
F.3d 1307, 1315 (11th Cir. 2002) (untimely motion for leave to amend the
pleadings). Accordingly, “[d]eadlines are not meant to be aspirational,” and a
litigant does not “ha[ve] carte blanche permission to perform when he desires.”
Young v. City of Palm Bay, 358 F.3d 859, 864 (11th Cir. 2004) (untimely response
to motion for summary judgment).
The deadline for filing dispositive motions was established by the
scheduling order entered pursuant to Rule 16(b). Such an order “may be modified
only for good cause and with the judge’s consent.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4).
Trammell suggests that the necessary good cause exists because there are no
factual disputes and a trial would be a waste of everyone’s time. (Doc. 80 at 2-3).
It is to be hoped that all dispositive motions are filed with such a mindset, because
a motion for summary judgment pursued in the face of known material factual
disputes is doomed from the outset. But such circumstances, if they exist, do not
constitute good cause for revising a Rule 16(b) scheduling order.
As the Court noted in its order denying Trammell’s motion to re-open
discovery, (Doc. 70 at 3), “[t]his good cause standard precludes modification
unless the schedule could not ‘be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the
extension.’” Sosa v. Airprint Systems, Inc., 133 F.3d 1417, 1418 (11th Cir. 1998)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 16 advisory committee notes). Trammell identifies no
impediment to his ability to file a motion for summary judgment in February
rather than in June. On the contrary, the evidence on which he bases his motion is
an affidavit the defendant submitted in support of its motion for summary
judgment over four months ago. Accordingly, the motion for leave to file a
motion for summary judgment is denied.
Trammell’s motion for summary judgment could not succeed even if it
were allowed to be filed. As the Court noted in its order denying the defendant’s
motion for summary judgment, whether and to what extent the defendant is
entitled to recovery depends on the meaning of the phrase, “incurred … in
collecting or attempting to collect this Note, whether by suit or otherwise.” (Doc.
74 at 6). For the defendant to be successful, this language must “reac[h] not only
offensive acts (such as filing suit to force payment) but also defensive acts (such
as resisting legal challenges to the obligation to pay).” (Id. at 7).
The Court denied the defendant’s motion because, “[d]espite the centrality
of the issue, the defendant offers no analysis of it.” (Doc. 74 at 6). In particular,
“[t]he defendant engages in no analysis of the phrase, proposes no construction of
it, identifies no dictionary or other definitions of the words used, cites no cases
interpreting the phrase or applying it to a situation like the present one, and makes
no other effort to carry its burden of showing that the phrase must be construed in
its favor.” (Id.).
Trammell’s proposed motion suffers from the same defect. He says only
that defense counsel has admitted the sought attorney’s fees were expended
defending the plaintiffs’ claims in this action, “not in collecting or attempting to
collect the Settlement Note,” (Doc. 80-2 at 9), but he makes no attempt to
demonstrate that the contractual language cannot extend to defending those
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the parties do not intend to
address, through the normal means of proof, the proper construction of the
attorney’s fee provision, since the defendant did not do so in its motion for
summary judgment and since Trammell has not done so in its belated motion.
While the defendant has dodged this bullet, at trial it will bear the burden of
proving its claim, so a presentation as inadequate as those thus far made will
essentially guarantee a verdict for the plaintiffs.
The parties have recently reported surpassing confidence in their respective
views of the dispositive issue. (Doc. 77 at 2). The Court’s review of their
analyses reveals no justification for such confidence by either side, and the Court
does not intend to proceed to trial before the parties have seriously addressed
settlement. This matter is referred to the Magistrate Judge for the scheduling of a
DONE and ORDERED this 8th day of June, 2015.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The closest he comes is the one-sentence assertion that the plaintiffs’ complaint
sought damages but did not “challenge the obligation to pay under the Settlement Note or
ask this Court to declare payments were not owed.” (Doc. 80-2 at 9-10). But Trammell
does not explain why the language of the attorney’s fees provision must be read to
preclude recovery when the defendant defends a claim that, if successful, would
effectively prevent it from recovering on the Note (through elimination of the debt, setoff, or otherwise), whether or not an express challenge to the debt is mounted.
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