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Hernandez v. Frazier

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

January 9, 2014

ALFRED L. HERNANDEZ, an individual, and DUDLEY I. KLATT, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
W. LYNN FRAZIER, an individual, Defendant.

ORDER: (1) DENYING DEFENDANT LEAVE TO FILE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (2) DENYING DEFENDANT LEAVE TO FILE SEALED DOCUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF HIS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

DAVID ALAN EZRA, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Motion for Summary Judgment regarding Plaintiff's damages (Dkt. # 489) and his corresponding Motion for Leave to File Sealed Documents in Support of his Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. # 490). Plaintiffs Hernandez and Klatt (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a Response. (Dkt. # 493.) For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion for Leave to file Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. # 489) and therefore DENIES Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Sealed Documents (Dkt. # 490).[1]

BACKGROUND

This case concerns a series of patents involving technology used in oil and gas wells. Plaintiffs claim that they are joint inventors and owners of the patents at issue, a claim that Defendant W. Lynn Frazier ("Frazier" or "Defendant") disputes.

The original deadline for dispositive motions in the instant action was November 17, 2011. (Dkt. # 30.) Per both parties' requests (sometimes opposed, sometimes unopposed), that deadline has been extended on seven occasions- January 2, 2012 (Dkt. # 47); March 1, 2012 (Dkt. # 68); May 16, 2012 (Dkt. # 128); June 16, 2012 (Dkt. # 289); June 25, 2012 (Dkt. # 302); July 20, 2012 (Dkt. # 322)-with the final deadline falling on August 20, 2012 (Dkt. # 337). Prior to that date, Defendant timely filed twenty-three motions for partial summary judgment on a wide range of issues. (Dkt. ## 82-83, 85, 135-36, 166, 172, 199, 209, 273, 308-09, 316, 318-20, 323, 328, 329-31, 335, 364.)

On February 6, 2013, Defendant sought leave to file another motion for partial summary judgment regarding a statute-of-limitations defense. (Dkt. # 483.) Defendant argued that a motion for partial summary judgment on the statute-of-limitations defense could not have been "usefully filed" until then because it was only when the Court granted summary judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' Count X for breach of fiduciary duty that Defendant could assert such a motion. (Id. at 4.) In granting Defendant's Motion for Leave, the Court noted that Defendant had previously argued the statute-of-limitations defense in an earlier motion for partial summary judgment, but the Magistrate Judge found it "not necessary for the Court to address whether much of Plaintiffs' claimed damages accrued before January 5, 2007, ' [were] time-barred." (See Dkt. # 495 at 4 (quoting Dkt. # 412 at 26).) Because the Magistrate issued her Report and Recommendation after the dispositive motion deadline had lapsed, the Court found good cause for Defendant's delay in filing an additional motion for summary judgment. (See id.)

On June 6, 2013, Defendant filed the instant motion seeking leave to file another motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. # 489.) Plaintiffs filed a response. (Dkt. # 493.)

DISCUSSION

I. Motion for Leave to File Motion for Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4) provides that "[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent." "The good cause standard requires the party seeking reliefs to show that the deadlines cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party needing the extension.'" S & W Enters., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., NA , 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting 6A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 1552.1 (2d ed. 1990)). The S & W court adopted a four-factored test to determine whether good cause exists: "(1) the explanation for the failure to timely move for leave to amend; (2) the importance of the amendment; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the amendment; and (4) the availability of a continuance to cure such prejudice." Id . The Court will discuss each factor in turn.

A. Explanation for Delay

According to Defendant, his Motion for Summary Judgment concerning Plaintiffs' damages could not have been filed until this Court ruled on the pending Reports and Recommendations from Magistrate Judge Mathy. (See Dkt. # 489 at 5.) Plaintiffs counter that Defendant could have moved for dispositive relief concerning damages any time before the deadline for dispositive motions, and in fact, Defendant has filed thirteen dispositive motions relating to the issue of damages. (See Dkt. # 493 at 4.)

Unlike Defendant's previous motion for leave to amend (Dkt. # 483), the Court does not find that the instant motion provides a satisfactory explanation for delay. The Court granted the earlier motion because although Defendant had previously argued the statute-of-limitations defense, the Magistrate Judge issued her Report and Recommendation without considering the limitations issue. (See Dkt. # 495.) Because Defendant could not have known that the limitations defense had not been considered by the Magistrate Judge until the Report was issued, which was after the dispositive motion deadline had passed, the Court found good cause existed for Defendant's delay. (Id.)

However, the instant Motion for Leave does not present a similar justification. To the contrary, Defendant only asserts that the instant motion for summary judgment "could not be usefully filed until pending recommended summary judgments were granted because they were a necessary predicate." (Dkt. # 489 at 5.) The Court fails to see why it is necessary to have rulings on Defendant's twenty-three pending motions before submitting a motion regarding Plaintiffs' damages. As Magistrate Judge Mathy aptly concluded, "The parties, not the Court, made the strategic decisions on the number and scope of each dispositive motion and it is the responsibility of the parties to address how rulings may affect pending matters." (Dkt. # 466 at 14-15.) Defendant could have filed a motion for summary ...


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