Knopick v. Connelly et al
MEMORANDUM re. MOTION to Continue 136 (Order to follow as separate docket entry) Signed by Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo on 01/23/14. (ma)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
PHILIP A. DOWNEY,
Civil No. 1: 09-CV-1287
Judge Sylvia H. Rambo
Presently before the court is Plaintiff’s Motion to Continue Trial,
Pretrial Conference, and Extend Deadlines. (Doc. 136.) The motion, filed on
January 20, 2014, requests that the court amend the balance of the pretrial deadlines,
including the date set for jury selection, due to Plaintiff’s and/or Counsel’s
unavailability. (Id.) For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s motion will be denied.
The court has little doubt the parties are familiar with the facts and
procedural history of this case and finds no reason to repeat it here. The deadlines
Plaintiff seeks to amend were established in a case management order dated June 11,
2013. (Doc. 93.) The order imposed the following deadlines:
May 5, 2014
Fact Discovery Deadline:
December 16, 2013
Plaintiff’s Expert Report:
January 20, 2014
Defendants’ Expert Report: February 17, 2014
Rebuttal Expert Report:
February 28, 2014
Dispositive Motions &
Motions in Limine &
March 31, 2014
None w/out leave of court
March 10, 2014
Motions in Limine Resp.:
March 20, 2014
Motions in Limine Reply:
March 27, 2014
Proposed Voir Dire, and
Proposed Jury Instructions: April 10, 2014 by noon
April 17, 2014 at 11:00 AM
(Doc. 93.) This was far from the first order granting the parties’ requests by
amending pretrial deadlines and the date set for trial. (See, e.g., Docs. 61, 70, 76 &
Plaintiff’s instant motion offers the following justifications in support of
his request to again delay disposition of this action:
Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel are scheduled to
begin trial in the case of Knopick v. Breedlove et al.,
W.D. Ark. 11-3010, in Arkansas on April 28, 2014.
Undersigned counsel believes that the trial in
Arkansas will last two weeks, creating a conflict
with trial in this case.
Undersigned counsel is also scheduled for trial in the
case of Villard v. [T]he Fairville Co. et al, 20124932, in the Delaware County Court of Common
Pleas for the May trial term. The Delaware County
Court Calendar does not provide a date certain.
Undersigned counsel will file a motion to continue
that trial as well.
Undersigned counsel has trial scheduled in the case
of Zimmerman v. Norfolk Southern, E.D. Pa. 102267, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
scheduled to begin before the Honorable Judge
Gardner on March 31, 2014.
Undersigned counsel believes that the Zimmerman
trial will last three weeks, creating a conflict with the
The April 10th deadline to file pretrial memoranda,
proposed voire [sic] dire, and proposed jury
instructions also falls during the Zimmerman trial.
Plaintiff’s expert report is due today. Plaintiff’s
expert needs additional time to complete his report.
(Doc. 136, ¶¶ 2-4, 7-10.) Defendant opposes Plaintiff’s request. (Id. at ¶ 11.) The
motion has been adequately briefed to warrant the court’s disposition.
Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[w]hen an
act may or must be done within a specified time, the court may, for good cause,
extend the time . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1). “‘Good cause’ is understood to mean
‘[a] legally sufficient reason,’ and it reflects ‘the burden placed on a litigant to show
why a request should be granted or an action excused.’” Joseph v. Hess Oil V.I.
Corp., 651 F.3d 348, 351 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Blacks Law Dictionary 251 (9th
ed. 2009)). The “good cause” inquiry “focuses on the moving party’s burden to
show due diligence.” Race Tires Am., Inc. v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., 614 F.3d
57, 84 (3d Cir. 2010). A court has considerable discretion in granting or denying any
motion for enlargement of time, including when the motion pertains to a request to
continue trial. Hoffman v. Kennedy, 30 F.R.D. 50, 51 (E.D. Pa. 1962); see also
Miller v. Ashcroft, 76 F. App’x 457, 461 (3d Cir. 2003). That discretion is guided,
however, by certain basic principles. Under the abuse of discretion standard, a trial
court’s control of its docket will not be disturbed “except upon the clearest showing
that the procedures have resulted in actual and substantial prejudice to the
complaining litigant.” Miller, 76 F. App’x at 461. Moreover, any party challenging
a ruling denying a continuance request “ha[s] a heavy burden to bear, . . . as matters
of docket control . . . are committed to the sound discretion of the district court.” In
re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 685 F.2d 810, 817 (3d Cir. 1982). When exercising
this discretion, the court must remain mindful that the “Federal Rules are meant to be
applied in such a way as to promote justice.” McCurdy v. American Bd. of Plastic
Surgery, 157 F.3d 191, 197 (3d Cir. 1998). Oftentimes, promoting justice guides the
court to appease litigants’ requests, as to ensure disputes are resolved on the merits
and with the best attorney preparation as possible. Id. However, promoting justice
also requires the merits of disputes be placed before the court in a timely fashion. Id.
(affirming denial of request for extension of time).
Judged against these standards, the court concludes that the proper
exercise of its broad discretion is to deny Plaintiff’s most recent motion for an
extension of time in this nearly five year old attorney malpractice litigation. In this
regard, the court finds each of Plaintiff’s explanations of scheduling conflicts
unconvincing and insufficient to establish good cause. Initially, the court notes that
trial in this matter was scheduled by order dated June 11, 2013. (Doc. 93.) With
regard to the conflict regarding Knopick v. Breedlove in the Western District of
Arkansas, Harrison Division, the court notes that Judge Holmes scheduled trial in
that matter by order entered on October 29, 2013. See Third Am. Scheduling Order,
Knopick v. Breedlove, Civ. No. 11-cv-3010 (W.D. Ark. Oct. 29, 2013) (Dkt. No. 64).
Thus, Plaintiff’s trial in the Western District of Arkansas was scheduled 140 days
after – and with Plaintiff’s knowledge of – trial in this matter.
With regard to the conflict regarding Villard v. The Fairville Co. in the
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas during the May trial term, the court notes
that the matter does not yet have a date certain. Thus, counsel will have to file a
motion to continue that trial, as this trial has been scheduled for a date certain for
over six months.
With regard to the conflict regarding Zimmerman v. Norfolk S. Corp. in
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court notes Judge Gardner scheduled trial in
that matter by order entered on July 26, 2013. See Jury Trial Attachment Order,
Zimmerman v. Norfolk S. Corp., Civ. No. 10-cv-2267 (E.D. Pa. July 26, 2013) (Dkt.
No. 85). Thus, Plaintiff’s trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was scheduled
45 days after – and with Plaintiff’s knowledge of – trial in this matter.
The court also concludes that counsel is unable to make a showing that
denying this motion for extension of time would result in actual, unfair prejudice to
the complaining litigant, see Miller, 76 F. App’x at 461, since counsel had been
aware of the date of trial in this matter for 223 days, knew of the conflict in
Breedlove for 85 days, and knew of the conflict in Zimmerman for 180 days.
Moreover, the January 20, 2014 motion is not the first request for an extension of
time; rather, it is simply the most recent in a long line of attempts to push back the
deadlines. Finally, Plaintiff’s request is made with total disregard for the court’s
warning made over a year ago: “Plaintiff is advised to strictly comply with the
court’s deadlines throughout the remainder of this action. Further extensions of time
will not be granted.” (Doc. 79, ¶ 4.) This lengthy litigation has been lingering for
far too long. The parties are entitled to closure.
Plaintiff also requests the court extend the deadline set for submitting
his expert report, averring that “Plaintiff’s expert needs additional time to complete
his report.” (Doc. 136, ¶ 10.) Plaintiff provides no additional basis for this request.
The court finds Plaintiff’s terse explanation insufficient to excuse his latest failure to
comply with the deadlines set by the court in this attorney malpractice litigation and,
further, that the request was made in complete disregard to the court’s warning made
over a year ago: “Plaintiff is advised to strictly comply with the court’s deadlines
throughout the remainder of this action. Further extensions of time will not be
granted.” (Doc. 79, ¶ 4.)1
In short, the court concludes that the time has come to address this
matter on its merits, resolve this dispute, and reaffirm the abiding rule that “justice . .
. requires that the merits of a particular dispute be placed before the court in a timely
fashion.” Id. Therefore, the court will deny2 the instant motion.
An appropriate order will issue.
s/Sylvia H. Rambo
SYLVIA H. RAMBO
United States District Judge
Dated: January 23, 2014.
The restatement of this language is intentional, as one cannot overstate the power of
The court notes that, in the past, it has granted Plaintiff a brief extension of time despite
its decision to deny Plaintiff’s motion in order to avoid adverse consequences to the litigant. (Doc. 79,
p. 5 of 6.) Due to the court’s previous warning and in light of Plaintiff’s totally inadequate explanation
of his inability to adhere to basic deadlines, no such cushion is afforded here with respect to Plaintiff’s
request for the court to extend the expert report deadline.
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