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Garcia v. LQ Properties, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 3, 2018

MARTA GARCIA AND OSCAR GARCIA, Plaintiffs,
v.
LQ PROPERTIES, INC., d/b/a LA QUINTA INN LAREDO and d/b/a LA QUINTA INNS & SUITES, LQ MANAGEMENT LLC, d/b/a LA QUINTA INN LAREDO and d/b/a LA QUINTA INN & SUITES, and BRE/LQ PROPERTIES, LLC, n/k/a LQ PROPERTIES, LLC, d/b/a LA QUINTA INNS & SUITES and d/b/a LA QUINTA INN LAREDO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sam Lindsay, United States District Judge

         Before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Additional Time to Respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 54), filed November 1, 2017. For the reasons herein explained, the court grants Plaintiffs' Motion for Additional Time to Respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 54).

         I. Background

         This is a premises liability lawsuit. On October 23, 2015, Plaintiffs Marta Garcia (“Mrs. Garcia”) and Oscar Garcia (“Mr. Garcia”) (sometimes collectively, “Plaintiffs” or the “Garcias”) filed this lawsuit in state court in Indiana, alleging negligence and seeking damages for injuries Mrs. Garcia contends she sustained on October 24, 2013, when she slipped and fell in the bathtub of the Garcia's hotel room at a LaQuinta Inn in Laredo, Texas. Mr. Garcia brings a claim for loss of consortium. On December 3, 2015, Defendants removed this action to federal court in the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See Notice of Removal (Doc. 1). Following removal, Defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. On June 20, 2016, the district court, after concluding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendants, transferred the case to this court in the “interest[] of justice.” See Opinion and Order 2 (Doc. 22).

         On January 13, 2017, the court issued a Scheduling Order (Doc. 35), setting the case for trial on its four-week docket beginning February 5, 2018. Pursuant to the Scheduling Order, the deadline for Plaintiffs to designate experts was July 5, 2017, the deadline for Defendants to designate experts was August 5, 2017, and the deadline for completion of discovery was October 2, 2107.

         On August 25, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion seeking to vacate the trial setting, extend the discovery deadline, and allow them to designate an expert witness after the deadline had passed and allow Defendants to also have additional time to designate an expert witness. See Pls.' Mot. to Vacate (Doc. 45). Defendants opposed the relief sought, arguing that Plaintiffs had failed to exercise diligence in prosecuting their case. Plaintiffs filed a reply detailing the back and forth between the parties with respect to trying to meet the discovery deadlines, as well as the logistical issues encountered by Plaintiffs, who are approximately seventy-five years of age, having to travel from Indiana to Texas, and problems encountered by Plaintiffs' counsel, a solo practitioner in Indiana. See Pls.' Reply (Doc. 48) and Appendix thereto (Docs. 48-1 through 48-4).

         While Plaintiffs' motion to vacate the trial setting was pending, Defendant LQ Management L.L.C. (“LQ Management”), who will be the only remaining Defendant in this action, [*] filed a motion for summary judgment, contending, among other things, that Plaintiffs had failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact that it had actual or constructive notice that the bathtub in the Garcia's hotel room at the LaQuinta Inn in Laredo, Texas, was in an unreasonably dangerous condition, or that such condition, if it existed, proximately caused Mrs. Garcia's injuries, or that the bathtub presented an unreasonable risk of harm. See Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (Doc. 53); Summ. J. Br. (Doc. 54). Defendant also sought summary judgment on the issue of damages as they relate to lost earning capacity, future medical treatment, disfigurement and impairment. Id. In response, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Additional Time to Respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 54), in which they incorporate all the arguments filed in support of their pending Motion to Vacate Trial Setting, filed on August 25, 2017. Relying on the Affidavit of their counsel, Wanda E. Jones, filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d), Plaintiffs contend that additional time is needed to take further discovery to respond to Defendant's summary judgment motion. Defendant opposes the motion, reasserting the arguments it originally made in its opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to vacate the trial setting, and asserting that Plaintiffs have not been diligent in prosecuting this case.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applies to motions to continue summary judgment responses. Rule 56(d) provides:

(d) When Facts Are Unavailable to the Nonmovant. If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may:
(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;
(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or
(3) issue any other appropriate order.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). To obtain a continuance under Rule 56(d), the party opposing summary judgment must file a motion, along with an affidavit or declaration, setting forth why he or she cannot present, by affidavit or declaration, evidence necessary to justify his or her opposition to the summary judgment motion. Id.; see also Access Telecom, Inc. v. MCI Telecomms. Corp ., 197 F.3d 694, 719 (5th Cir. 1999). The party moving for the continuance must show why he needs the additional discovery and how the additional discovery will demonstrate that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Stults v. Conoco, Inc., 76 F.3d 651, 657-58 (5th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). A party may not “rely on vague assertions that additional discovery will produce needed, but unspecified facts.” Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 162 (5th Cir. 2006) (citation and quotation marks ...


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