DeLoach, et al v. Standard Ins. Co., et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff Laurie DeLoach's Motion for Leave to Reopen Case 61 is DENIED. A separate Judgment of Dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff Laurie DeLoach's Motion for Substitution 61 is DENIED as moot. IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that Plaintiff's Request for Oral Argument 63 is DENIED. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 12/13/2016. (JMC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
SAMMIE A. DELOACH and
STANDARD INSURANCE COMPANY and
J.A. JONES, INC.,
Case No. 1:02-CV-00138 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Laurie DeLoach’s motion to be substituted for
her deceased husband Sammie DeLoach and for leave to reopen this case out of time (Doc. No.
61). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.1
Because the standard for filing a motion for leave to file out of time requires addressing
“all the relevant circumstances,” Maritz, Inc. v. C/Base, Inc., 4:06CV761 CAS, 2007 WL
2302511, at *2 (E.D. Mo. August 7, 2007) (citing Pioneer Inv. Servs Co. v. Brunswick Assoc.
Ltd. P’ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993)), the Court will discuss the procedural history of this case.
In October 2002, Plaintiffs Sammie and Laurie DeLoach (“Plaintiffs”) filed this action
for long term disability benefits under an employee welfare benefit plan sponsored by Sammie
DeLoach’s employer, J.A. Jones, Inc. (“Jones”) and administered by Standard Insurance
Company (“Standard”) (Doc. No. 1). Under the plan, Jones was to self-insure the first 60 months
Plaintiff has requested oral argument (Doc. No. 63). Finding that the issues have been extensively
briefed and that oral argument would not assist the Court, the request is denied.
of any award of disability benefits; any liability for benefits thereafter would be Standard’s alone
(see Doc. No. 70 at 3-4).2
On October 1, 2003, Jones filed a Suggestion of Bankruptcy (Doc. No. 56); on October 6,
2003, all proceedings in this matter were stayed (Doc. No. 57). On November 21, 2003, the
Court administratively closed this file subject to reopening upon motion by the Plaintiffs. The
Court’s order specifically directed Plaintiffs to file their motion “no later than thirty (30) days
after the bankruptcy court’s action, which shall include a statement of the facts and procedural
history, including significant actions taken in proceedings in any United States Bankruptcy
Court” (Doc. No. 58). On December 17, 2007, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
Western District of North Carolina disallowed Plaintiffs’ claims against Jones and expunged
them from the record (Doc. No. 61-3). Sammie DeLoach died on June 29, 2008 (Doc. No. 61-8).
The bankruptcy proceedings concluded in April 2014 (Doc. No. 61-6). Two years later, Laurie
DeLoach (“DeLoach”) filed the instant motion to reopen this case. She also seeks to be
substituted for her deceased husband pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(2).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b) authorizes courts to accept late filings where the
failure to timely file is the result of “excusable neglect.” Whether a party’s failure to meet a
deadline is excusable is an equitable determination, “taking account of all the relevant
During the first 24 months of any disability, the “Own Occupation” definition of disability applied. This
standard meant that a plan participant could qualify for benefits if he was unable to perform any
employment that involved material duties of the same general character as his regular and ordinary
employment. Thereafter, the “Any Occupation” definition applied. Under this standard, a plan participant
would qualify for benefits only if he was unable to perform the material duties of any gainful occupation
as a result of physical disease injury or mental disorder. (See Doc. No. 70 at 3-4) As of October 2002,
when Plaintiffs filed their complaint, the only issue decided was that Sammie DeLoach did not qualify for
benefits under the “Own Occupation” standard. According to Standard, different evidence would be
relevant had he later decided to file a claim for benefits under the “Any Occupation” standard. (Id. at 5)
circumstances surrounding the party’s omission.” In re Harlow Fay, Inc., 993 F.2d 1351, 1352
(8th Cir. 1993) (quoting Pioneer, 507 U.S. at 395)). In making this determination, the Court must
consider a number of factors, including (1) the danger of prejudice to the non-moving party; (2)
the potential impact on the proceedings; (3) the reason for the delay, including whether it was
within the party’s control; and (4) whether the party acted in good faith. Maritz, 2007 WL
2302511, at *2; see also Sugarbaker v. SSM Health Care, 187 F.3d 853, 855–56 (8th Cir. 1999).
Plaintiff has the burden to demonstrate “excusable neglect.” See Huggins v. FedEx Ground
Package System, Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 856 (8th Cir. 2010). The Eighth Circuit has indicated that
the reason given for the late filing is the key consideration in determining whether there is
excusable neglect. Lowry v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 211 F.3d 457, 463 (8th Cir. 2000).
In her motion, DeLoach asserts that intervening circumstances beyond her control made
it difficult, “if not impossible,” to timely file her motion to reopen this case. In particular, she
points to the fact that Jones’ bankruptcy proceedings spanned ten years, during which time she
and her husband relocated from Missouri and her husband died (Doc. No. 62 at 5-6). DeLoach
asserts her counsel did not receive notice when the bankruptcy case was concluded in April
2014, and that once discovered, counsel had to locate case files, obtain documents from the
bankruptcy court, and evaluate the legal effects of her husband’s death and the bankruptcy
court’s rulings on the claims asserted in this action (id. at 6). Notably, DeLoach does not assert
that she and her husband did not receive notice in 2007 when the bankruptcy court disallowed
their claims against Jones and expunged them from the record. DeLoach contends that Standard
will suffer no prejudice from reopening this case because at the time the case was stayed,
Standard’s summary judgment motion was fully briefed and ready for disposition (id.).
Standard opposes the motion, arguing that it has been severely prejudiced by DeLoach’s
delay in seeking to reopen this case, and that her delay is not attributable to excusable neglect
(Doc. No. 70). Standard states its motion for summary judgment was directed to Sammie
DeLoach’s claim for benefits under the “Own Occupation” standard and did not address any
future claim for benefits under the “Any Occupation” standard (id. at 5). Standard also maintains
that Plaintiffs’ involvement in the bankruptcy proceedings was terminated as of December 17,
2007, when the bankruptcy court disallowed and expunged their claims against Jones (id. at 1213). Had Plaintiffs moved to reopen this case at that time, Standard would have been able to fully
evaluate Sammie DeLoach’s medical condition to determine whether he was disabled from “Any
Occupation” in December 2005 for it to be liable for disability benefits. Unfortunately, Sammie
DeLoach died in June of 2008, and Standard cannot have him examined. Standard states that
given the passage of time, it is unlikely that it can obtain Sammie DeLoach’s full and complete
medical records (id. at 8-10). The Court notes that independent medical examinations are
frequently not conducted in these cases. Moreover, Standard does not actually know whether or
not Sammie DeLoach’s medical records still exist. While the danger of prejudice to the nonmoving party is a consideration, see Maritz, 2007 WL 2302511, at *2, the more compelling issue
for the Court is the lack of excusable neglect on the part of DeLoach.
Plaintiffs initiated this case in 2002. Once the case was stayed on Jones’ Suggestion of
Bankruptcy, Plaintiffs had an obligation to monitor the bankruptcy proceedings and inform the
Court when those proceedings were finally concluded. Plaintiffs failed to timely comply with the
Court’s order. The delay is not a matter of days or weeks or even months. According to Standard,
Plaintiffs had notice in December 2007 that their involvement in the bankruptcy proceedings had
ended, but did not take action to reopen this case for nine years. Even assuming their obligation
to notify the Court began to run from April 9, 2014, when the bankruptcy proceedings were
terminated, this still results in a significant delay of over two years.3 In any event, Plaintiffs did
not adequately preserve their claim. Plaintiffs could have pursued a separate claim for benefits
against Standard at any time after December 2005, when Standard’s liability under the plan was
implicated; the automatic stay in the bankruptcy proceeding only prevented Plaintiffs from
pursuing a claim against Jones. Indeed, Plaintiff concedes that Standard’s liability was not
affected by the Jones bankruptcy (see Doc. No. 62 at 4; Doc. No. 73 at 4). For these reasons, the
Court concludes that DeLoach has not established excusable neglect and is, therefore, not
entitled to reopen this case.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff Laurie DeLoach’s Motion for Leave to
Reopen Case  is DENIED. A separate Judgment of Dismissal will accompany this
Memorandum and Order.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff Laurie DeLoach’s Motion for Substitution
 is DENIED as moot.
IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Request for Oral Argument  is
Dated this 13th day of December, 2016.
JOHN A. ROSS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
While DeLoach asserts her counsel did not receive notice when the bankruptcy case was concluded in
April 2014, Standard points out that pursuant to Local Rule 2090-2 of the Western District of North
Carolina Bankruptcy Court, out-of-state attorneys are permitted to monitor bankruptcy proceedings
without retaining local counsel. Had such action been taken, DeLoach would have known within hours of
the termination of the Jones bankruptcy proceedings (Doc. No. 70 at 15). Ignorance of the rules does not
usually constitute excusable neglect. See Pioneer, 507 U.S. at 392.
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