Hansen v. Thorpe
ORDER & REASONS that Roger Thorpe's 10 Motion to Stay is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that these proceedings be STAYED until Wednesday, April 10, 2019, or on the parties' motion. Signed by Judge Eldon E. Fallon on 12/11/18. (dno)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
SECTION “L” (3)
ORDER & REASONS
Before the Court is a motion to stay this litigation pending the resolution of a related
criminal matter filed by Defendant Roger Thorpe. R. Doc. 10. Plaintiff Christopher Hansen
opposes the motion. R. Doc. 11. Thorpe has filed a reply. R. Doc. 14. Having considered the record,
the parties’ arguments, and the applicable law, the Court rules as follows.
On June 23, 2017, Plaintiff Christopher Hansen alleges he was traveling eastbound on
Interstate-10 when he was verbally accosted by Defendant Roger Thorpe. R. Doc. 1 at ¶ 5.
According to Plaintiff, after he “maneuvered his vehicle around Defendant’s vehicle in slow
moving traffic,” Defendant “rolled down his window” and began yelling at Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 5.
Plaintiff continued driving with his window up when Defendant “suddenly pulled out a firearm
and fired at least two (2) rounds into Plaintiffs vehicle,” which “shattered the right rear passenger
side window of Plaintiff’s vehicle, striking the front passenger seat head rest.” Id. at ¶ 6.
In an attempt to read Defendant’s license plate number, Plaintiff followed Defendant for a
brief period until Defendant eventually pulled over, and Plaintiff parked his car behind
Defendant’s. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff alleges that, once he parked his car, “Defendant exited his vehicle
with his firearm drawn, approached Plaintiff, . . . threatened to kill Plaintiff[,] and demanded that
Plaintiff give up his cellular phone.” Id. at 8. “Fear[ing] for his life,” Plaintiff dropped his phone
on the ground, id. at ¶ 9, whereupon “Defendant picked [it] up . . . and walked back to his vehicle,”
“verbally threaten[ing] to kill Plaintiff if Plaintiff continued to follow [him],” id. at ¶¶ 10, 11.
Plaintiff alleges he suffered “severe emotional distress that includes, inpatient psychiatric
treatment for suicidal ideations, divorce and continuing post[-]traumatic stress disorder” as a result
of Defendant’s actions. Id. at ¶ 26.
Following the incident, Police officers arrested Defendant for: (1) Aggravated Assault with
a Firearm, (2) Use of a Firearm in Robbery, and (3) Illegal Use of Weapons: Relative to Illegal
Discharge of a Firearm. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges the New Orleans District Attorney ultimately
charged Defendant with: (1) Discharging a Firearm During the Commission of a Violent Crime,
in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:94(F); and (2) Armed Robbery with a Firearm, in
violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:64.3. Id. at ¶ 15. According to the Complaint,
“Defendant’s [criminal] case is active and is styled as State v. Roger Thorpe,” Case No. 538428,
Section “I.” Id.
Based on these allegations, Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant on June 22,
2018. Id. He brings claims for assault with a deadly weapon and/or aggravated assault, id. at ¶ 4,
and intentional infliction of emotional distress, id. at 5–6. He seeks judgment against defendant
“in an amount that will compensate him for . . . violation[s] of his rights under the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and the laws of the State of Louisiana, including but not limited to”: (1) “LSA-C.C.
Art. 2315 [for] damages sustained by him as a direct victim of the Aggravated Assault,” (2) “LSAC.C. Art. 2315 [for] damages sustained by him as a direct victim of the Armed Robbery,” (3)
compensatory damages, (4) punitive damages, (5) costs, and (6) pre-judgment and post-judgment
interest. Id. at 6–7.
On November 1, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to stay the instant proceedings while his
related criminal case is pending. He submits that “[i]f the civil litigation is allowed to proceed
simultaneously with the criminal proceeding, [he] will be forced to choose between exercising his
rights under the Fifth Amendment and exposing himself to . . . [Plaintiff’s] contention that
[Defendant’s] failure to testify warrants an adverse inference.” R. Doc. 10-1 at 1.
In opposition, Plaintiff admits “The instant civil action . . . overlap[s] with the criminal
case,” but nevertheless contends the Court “can move this case forward using the admissions that
Defendant made in his 911 Emergency call that is referenced on page 4 of the NOPD Arrest
report.” R. Doc. 11 at 3. He also points to the criminal court’s denial of Defendant’s motions to
suppress his statement to police and the gun discovered in his home, arguing “the evidence that is
now in the public record in Defendant’s criminal case is substantial enough to prove Plaintiff’s
case under the preponderance of the evidence civil court standard without having to take
Defendant’s deposition or serve Defendant with Admissions, Interrogatories or Requests for
Production.” According to Plaintiff, because this evidence and Defendant’s prior statements are
publicly available, “Defendant will not be prejudiced at all; nor will Defendant’s constitutional
rights be put in any jeopardy.” Id. at 5. Finally, Plaintiff contends he “will be highly prejudiced if
this case is stayed indefinitely and he is not first able to identify the assets Defendant currently
holds,” as “the indefinite delay could completely frustrate Plaintiff’s ability to recover damages
once the Criminal Prosecution is concluded.” Id. at 5.
LAW & ANALYSIS
A stay may be warranted only where “special circumstances” exist to prevent a party from
suffering substantial and irreparable prejudice. S.E.C. v. First Fin. Grp., 659 F.2d 660 (5th Cir.
1981). To determine whether “special circumstances” exist, courts in this circuit consider:
1. The extent to which the issues in the criminal case overlap with those presented
in the civil case;
2. The status of the criminal case, including whether the defendant has been
3. The private interests of the plaintiff in proceeding expeditiously, weighed against
the prejudice to the plaintiff caused by the delay;
4. The private interests of and burden on the defendant;
5. The interests of the courts; and
6. The public interest.
Alcala v. Tex. Webb Cty., 625 F. Supp. 2d 391, 399 (S.D. Tex. 2009) (collecting cases); see also
Lebeouef v. Global X-Ray and Testing Corp., No. 07-5755, 2008 WL 239752, at *2 (E.D. La. Jan.
29, 2008). Although the procession of parallel civil and criminal proceedings is not automatically
objectionable, S.E.C. v. Dresser Indus., 628 F.2d 1368, 1375 (D.D.C. 1980), where “the facts at
issue in both the [civil] suit and the criminal investigation are the same, a stay of [the civil]
proceedings is appropriate.” Brumfield v. Shelton, 727 F. Supp. 282, 284 (E.D. La. 1989).
A. Extent to Which Issues in the Civil and Criminal Cases Overlap
“[T]he similarity of issues in the underlying civil and criminal actions is considered the
most important threshold issue in determining whether to grant a stay.” Dominguez v. Hartford
Fin. Servs. Grp., Inc., 530 F. Supp. 2d 902, 906–07 (S.D. Tex. 2008). Here, Plaintiff’s civil case
and the criminal action pending in state court overlap substantially. Plaintiff’s complaint details
the exact same conduct for which Defendant was indicted. Moreover, most of the witnesses who
will likely testify in this case will also be called as witnesses in the criminal matter, and the
overlap of the documentary evidence needed to prove both the civil and criminal cases is
substantial. 1 This factor militates in favor of granting the stay.
B. Status of Criminal Proceedings
In this case, Defendant has already been indicted for the crimes he allegedly committed
against Plaintiff. “[B]ecause it is more likely that a defendant could make incriminating
statements after the indictment has issued,” this factor weighs in favor of granting the stay. Doe
v. Morris, No. 11-1532, 2012 WL 359315 at *6 (E.D. La. Feb. 2, 2012) (citing Librado v. M.S.
Carriers, Inc., No. 02-2095, 2002 WL 31495988, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 5, 2002)).
C. Plaintiff’s Interest
“‘[I]n evaluating the plaintiff’s burden resulting from the stay, courts may insist that the
plaintiff establish more prejudice than simply a delay in his right to expeditiously pursue his
claim.’” Whitney Nat’l Bank v. Air Ambulance By B & C Flight Mgmt., Inc., No. 04-2220, 2007
WL 1468417, at *3 (S.D. Tex. May 18, 2007) (citing In re Adelphia Commc’ns Sec. Litig., No.
02-1781, 2003 WL 22358819, at *4 (E.D. Pa. May 13, 2003)). In this case, other than simply
stating he “will be highly prejudiced if this case is stayed indefinitely,” Plaintiff contends he will
be prejudiced by not being “able to identify the assets Defendant currently holds,” which
Plaintiff submits “could completely frustrate Plaintiff’s ability to recover damages once the
Criminal Prosecution is concluded.” R. Doc. 11 at 5. The Court finds such arguments speculative
and highly inflammatory. Because Plaintiff has not otherwise identified a compelling private
interest in proceeding expeditiously or articulated how he will be prejudiced by the delay, the
Court finds this factor weighs in favor of granting the stay.
The only significant difference would be the witnesses Plaintiff would presumably call to support his
intentional infliction of emotional distress.
D. Defendant’s Burden
“If the defendant would be burdened by civil discovery on the same issues as a pending
criminal case, this factor weighs in favor of a stay.” Whitney Nat’l Bank, 2007 WL 1468417, at
*3. Here, Defendant would be greatly prejudiced should the Court deny the motion to stay, as he
would “be forced to choose between [his] civil discovery obligations and [his] ability to assert
[his] Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.” Waste Mgmt. of La., LLC v. River
Birch, Inc., No. 11-2405, 2012 WL 520660, at *5 (citing Wehling v. CBS, 608 F.2d 1084 (5th
Cir. 1980)). “[A] party claiming the Fifth Amendment privilege should suffer no penalty for his
silence.” Wehling, 608 F.2d at 1088.
E. The Court’s Interest and The Public’s Interest
“The Court has interests in judicial economy and expediency,” Doe v. Morris, No. 111532, 2012 WL 359315 at *6 (E.D. La. Feb. 2, 2012), and “conducting the criminal proceedings
first advances the judicial economy,” SEC v. Offill, No. 07-1643, 2008 WL 958072, at *3 (N.D.
Tex. Apr. 9, 2008). Accordingly, the interest of the Court is best served by granting the stay.
Moreover, the “public has an interest in the resolution of disputes with minimal delay, but only
to the extent that the integrity of the defendant’s rights can be maintained.” Alcala, 625 F. Supp.
2d at 407 (quoting St. Martin v. Jones, No. 08-1047, 2008 WL 4534398, at *3(E.D. La. Oct. 2,
2018)). Thus, because Defendant would be forced to choose between defending this civil action
and abandoning his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, granting the stay is in the
public’s best interest.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that the motion to stay filed by Defendant Roger Thorpe, R. Doc. 10,
be and hereby is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that these proceedings be STAYED until Wednesday,
April 10, 2019 or on the parties’ motion.
New Orleans, Louisiana on this 11th day of December, 2018.
Eldon E. Fallon
U.S. District Court Judge
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