Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Graham v. HRchitect, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

July 28, 2017

JANA GRAHAM
v.
HRCHITECT, INC. and MATT LAFATA

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is HRchitect, Inc. and Matt Lafata's Motion for Leave to File Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #44). The Court, having considered the relevant pleadings, finds the motion should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 24, 2016, Plaintiff Jana Graham (“Graham”) filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division alleging various employment claims (Dkt. #1). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendant HRchitect, Inc. failed to pay her minimum wage and its President Matt Lafata (“Lafata”) retaliated against her in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (Dkt. #1). On September 26, 2016, the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division transferred the case to this Court (Dkt. #26). On October 5, 2016, the Court issued its Order Governing Proceedings (Dkt. #28) and set the scheduling conference for November 28, 2016. On November 14, 2016, the parties submitted a Joint Rule 26(f) Attorney Conference Report complete with proposed scheduling order dates (Dkt. #35). On December 9, 2016, the Court issued its Scheduling Order, entering the proposed dates submitted by the parties (Dkt. #38). The Scheduling Order set a March 6, 2017 deadline for motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, and other dispositive motions.

         Plaintiff contends that Plaintiff's counsel contacted Defendants' counsel to propose deposition dates on December 20, 2016, and several times thereafter (Dkt. #46 at p. 2). Plaintiff further contends that Defendants' counsel did not seek deposition dates for Graham until after the dispositive motion deadline (Dkt. #46 at p. 2). Both Graham and Matt Lafata were deposed on June 15, 2017.

         On July 10, 2017, Defendants filed this Motion for Leave to File Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #44). On July 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response (Dkt. #46).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that a party may move for summary judgment at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery unless a different time is set by a local rule, or a court orders otherwise. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) (emphasis added). Rule 16 states that a scheduling order may only be modified for “good cause” and with the judge's consent. Fed. R. Civ. P 16(b)(4); S & W Enters. v. SouthTrust Bank, 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003). Also, Rule 6 states that if a request is made to extend time after the original time has already expired, the court may “for good cause, extend the time . . . if the party failed to act because of excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(B).

         ANALYSIS

         Defendants request leave to file a motion for summary judgment after the dispositive motion deadline and claim there is good cause to grant their request. Defendants argue that the Court should apply a good cause analysis and allow the Defendants to file a dispositive motion after the deadline because “substantial justification” exists. However, this is not the correct standard. A simple good cause analysis only applies where the party seeks an extension before the deadline passes. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(A). Here, Defendants' counsel did not request an extension of the dispositive motion deadline until after the deadline had already passed. A party seeking an after-the-fact extension bears a heavier burden of demonstrating both “good cause” and “excusable neglect.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B) (“[T]he court may, for good cause, extend the time . . . on motion made after the time has expired if the party failed to act because of excusable neglect.”) (emphasis added). Relevant factors used to determine “excusable neglect” include: (1) the danger of prejudice to the non-movant; (2) the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings; (3) the reason for the delay, including whether it was within the movant's reasonable control; and (4) whether the movant acted in good faith. Rivero v. Sunbeam Prod., Inc., No. CIVA SA-08-CV-591-XR, 2010 WL 1752532, at *1 (W.D. Tex. April 29, 2010) (citing Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993); Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 161 n.8 (5th Cir. 2006)). For the following reasons, the Court finds that Defendants have not shown excusable neglect.

         The first factor, danger of prejudice to the non-movant, weighs against the Court granting the motion for leave. District courts in the Fifth Circuit have found prejudice in this context when finding excusable neglect would affect trial preparation. Deaton v. Kroger Co., No. 4:13-CV-254, 2014 WL 3452486, at *2 (E.D. Tex. July 15, 2014); see Rivero, 2010 WL 1752532, at *1 (finding excusable neglect would prejudice plaintiff because it would “impact their preparation for trial in reliance on the scheduling order deadlines”). In Deaton, the defendant filed a motion for leave and a motion for summary judgment on July 27 and July 30, 2014, over six months after the December 11, 2013 deadline to file summary judgment motions. 2014 WL 3452486, at *1. The Deaton court found the “potential prejudice to Plaintiff is extremely high” because the plaintiff was “under the impression that there were no further grounds for a summary judgment motion, and has been preparing for trial in September of 2014.” Id. Here, Defendants filed their motion for leave to file a motion for summary judgment over three months after the dispositive motion deadline. Thus, it is likely that Plaintiff was “under the impression that there were no further grounds” for summary judgment. Id. Also, this case's pre-trial conference is set for September 22, 2017, with trial scheduled in October 2017. Therefore, it is likely that Plaintiff has been preparing for trial, as the pretrial conference is impending. Thus, as in Rivero, hearing Defendants' summary judgment motion could adversely affect Plaintiff's “trial preparation in reliance on the scheduling order deadlines.” Id.

         Courts have also found prejudice when considering an untimely summary judgment motion could force the parties to go to trial without a summary judgment ruling. Deaton, 2014 WL 3452486, at *2. The Deaton case was scheduled for trial only two months after the defendant filed its untimely summary judgment motion. Id. Therefore, the court warned that “the parties could be forced to go to trial without a ruling” on the motion, which would result in “further prejudice to Plaintiff.” Id. This was because both parties would have to fully brief the summary judgment motion two months before trial. Id. Here, trial is also only two months away, and both parties would have to fully brief the summary judgment motion. This presents the possibility that trial could start without a summary judgment ruling, which would further prejudice Plaintiff.

         The second factor, the delay's length and its potential impact on judicial proceedings also weighs against finding excusable neglect. District courts in the Fifth Circuit have found delays as short as a few weeks as too long to find excusable neglect. Rivero, 2010 WL 1752532, at *1. For example, the deadline to file dispositive motions in Rivero was March 15, 2010. Id. The defendant did not file a motion for leave to file a motion for summary judgment until April 14, 2010. Id. In refusing to find excusable neglect, the Rivero court emphasized that the defendant was “aware as of March 23, 2010, that its own expert's opinion could serve the basis for a motion for summary judgment, yet waited until April 14 to seek leave from the Court to file a dispositive motion beyond the deadline.” Id. In this case, Defendants should have been aware from the moment Graham filed suit that her testimony could be the basis for a summary judgment motion. Yet Defendants waited until June 15, 2017, to depose Graham, long after the dispositive motion deadline had passed. This lengthy delay is simply too long to support an excusable neglect finding, especially considering the impending trial.

         The third factor-reason for the delay and whether it was in Defendants' reasonable control-also weighs against finding excusable neglect. Defendants' argue the reason for the delay in filing its summary judgment motion was because of “significant factual developments, ” discovery disputes, witnesses in different states, and defense counsel's “unavoidable ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.