Austin v. Auto Owners Insurance Company
Order re: 9 MOTION to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement, and Motion to Stay Discovery filed by Auto Owners Insurance Company. Responses due by 7/2/2012, Replies due by 7/9/2012. The Motion to Stay Discovery embedded in the Motion to Dismiss is denied. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 6/19/2012. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LILLIE M. AUSTIN,
AUTO OWNERS INSURANCE
CIVIL ACTION 12-0345-WS-B
On June 18, 2012, defendant, Auto Owners Insurance Company, filed a Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement, and Motion to Stay
Discovery (doc. 9), with accompanying memorandum of law.
Any party opposing the Motion to Dismiss or Motion for More Definite Statement must
file a response, supported by legal authority as appropriate, on or before July 2, 2012. Movant
will be allowed until July 9, 2012 to file a reply. If the Court determines that oral argument is
necessary, the parties will be notified and a hearing will be scheduled. Otherwise, the Motion to
Dismiss / Motion for More Definite Statement will be taken under submission after July 9, 2012.
With respect to the Motion to Stay Discovery embedded in defendant’s filing, defendant
asks that this Court “stay discovery and scheduling until the Court has ruled on this motion to
dismiss.” (Doc. 9, at 2.) In support of that request, defendant makes only general statements
about the desirability of resolving Rule 12(b) motions before embarking on time-consuming,
expensive, and potentially unnecessary discovery. But defendant fails to relate any of these
broad propositions to the particular circumstances of this case. For aught the briefing shows,
defendant’s position is that a stay of discovery should be a kneejerk judicial reaction whenever a
defendant files a motion to dismiss in federal court. The Court disagrees.
The starting point of the analysis is the well-worn premise 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); see also Walter Int’l Productions, Inc. v.
Salinas, 650 F.3d 1402, 1415 (11th Cir. 2011) (“A district court has broad authority to control the
pace of litigation before it.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); Johnson v. Board of
Regents of University of Georgia, 263 F.3d 1234, 1269 (11th Cir. 2001) (“we accord district
courts broad discretion over the management of pre-trial activities, including discovery and
scheduling”). Although defendant asserts that Chudasama requires or at least favors a stay of
discovery in this case, that decision “does not stand for the proposition that all discovery should
be stayed pending a decision on a motion to dismiss.” Schreiber v. Kite’s King Lake, LLC, 2010
WL 3909717, *1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 1, 2010); see also Arriaga-Zacarias v. Lewis Taylor Farms,
Inc., 2008 WL 4544470, *1 (M.D. Ga. Oct. 10, 2008) (Chudasama “does not mean that
discovery should be stayed as a matter of course whenever a defendant files a motion to
dismiss”). Indeed, “[a] request to stay discovery pending resolution of a motion is rarely
appropriate unless resolution of the motion will dispose of the entire case.” McCabe v. Foley,
233 F.R.D. 683, 685 (M.D. Fla. 2006). It is the movant’s burden to establish both good cause for
and reasonableness of the requested stay. See id.; Arriaga-Zacarias, 2008 WL 4544470, at *1.
Auto Owners has done neither.
Significantly, plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (doc. 6) interposes causes of action
against Auto Owners for both breach of contract (Count One) and bad faith (Count Two) based
on defendant’s denial of plaintiff’s claim for insurance benefits under the subject homeowners’
insurance policy following a loss to the insured property in June 2010. The Motion to Dismiss is
focused exclusively on the sufficiency of plaintiff’s pleading to state a claim for bad faith.
Nowhere in the Rule 12(b) Motion or accompanying brief does defendant assert that the breach
of contract claim found at Count One fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To
the contrary, the Rule 12(b) Motion does not address Count One at all. So regardless of the
outcome of defendant’s Motion to Dismiss / Motion for More Definite Statement, Austin’s claim
for breach of the subject insurance policy will remain pending in this action, and will require
discovery. Nor does defendant articulate any argument that discovery contemplated by the
Count Two bad-faith cause of action will be substantially or even materially broader or more
extensive than that required under the Count One breach-of-contract claim. For all defendant has
shown, the discovery for Count One will be coextensive to that for Count Two, meaning that
such discovery will remain necessary in its entirety, irrespective of the outcome of the Rule
12(b)(6) Motion. The Court will not delay discovery for a period of months to adjudicate a
motion that plainly will not and cannot obviate the need for such discovery, no matter how it is
Simply put, defendant has not made the requisite showing of good cause for derailing the
entire discovery and scheduling processes pending ruling on the Rule 12(b) Motion. The Court’s
review reflects that this Rule 12(b) Motion will have no discernible effect on the breach-ofcontract cause of action, which will remain pending and in need of discovery even if movant
receives the full measure of relief requested. Thus, under the circumstances presented here, a
stay would serve no constructive purpose in terms of efficiency, but would amount to an
unproductive, unnecessary waste of time. For all of these reasons, defendant’s Motion to Stay
Discovery is denied. The parties are advised that this action will proceed on a normal
preliminary scheduling order / Rule 26(f) conference / Rule 16(b) scheduling order trajectory,
notwithstanding the pendency of the Motion to Dismiss the bad-faith cause of action.
DONE and ORDERED this 19th day of June, 2012.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?