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Burns v. C.R. England Inc.

April 12, 2007

WILLIAM BURNS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
C.R. ENGLAND INC., ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donald G. Wilkerson United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Leave to File Fourth Amended Complaint, filed by Plaintiff William Burns on October 10, 2006 (Doc. 104). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff William Burns filed his Complaint in the Circuit Court of Madison County alleging injury arising out of an automobile accident that occurred on July 6, 2003, in which a truck owned by Defendant C. R. England, and operated by Defendant Leonard Karnes, struck a car driven by William Burns. Defendants removed the case to this Court on May 24, 2004, based on diversity of parties. Following removal, Plaintiff Burns filed his initial complaint on May 4, 2004 (Doc. 2). This Complaint alleged two counts of negligence, one against C.R. England and the other against Leonard Karnes, for negligent operation of a motor vehicle and negligent employment. C.R. England filed an Answer to the Complaint (Doc. 5) on May 6, 2004. This case was set for a presumptive trial month of August 2005 (Doc. 11), and a Scheduling Order (Doc. 13) was issued on August 26, 2004, setting the discovery deadline for April 6, 2005.

On February 28, 2005, Plaintiff Burns filed a Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 18), which sought leave to amend the Complaint to allow additional parties to intervene as Plaintiffs. That motion was subsequently granted on March 17, 2005 (Doc. 20), and Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint (Doc. 21) on March 18, 2005. This amended complaint contained the same allegations of negligence, except that it added an additional allegation that Defendants:

Failed to control and monitor the number of daily road hours and speeds of its drivers, including Defendant Karnes, but to the contrary required and/or encouraged its drivers to drive excessive hours at excessive speed, thereby creating risks of driver fatigue and carelessness which caused or contributed to the events described herein. (Doc. 21, ¶ 4(e.)). The complaint also added Plaintiffs Stephanie Moeslein, Mary Fogle, and Ronald Fogle. In all, the Amended Complaint had eight counts. On March 28, 2005, Defendant C.R. England filed an answer to the Amended Complaint, and on May 12, 2005, Defendant Karnes also filed an answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 26, 37). A Revised Scheduling Order was then issued on May 13, 2005, resetting the presumptive trial month to December 2005, and the discovery deadline to August 8, 2005 (Doc. 39). These dates were extended again after the Court granted Defendants' Joint Motion to Continue, which claimed that there was additional discovery that was required due to the addition of party plaintiffs (Doc. 43, 44). The presumptive trial month was reset to March 2006, and the discovery deadline extended to November 4, 2005 (Doc. 44).

On August 30, 2005, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 47), seeking to add additional causes of action against Defendants. The Court again granted leave to amend in its September 19, 2005 Order (Doc. 49), and Plaintiffs thereafter filed their Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 50), which added the following claims against Defendants on the negligence counts:

Negligently and carelessly caused, allowed and encouraged Leonard Ray Karnes to violate the Federal Highway Administration's hours of service regulations by repeatedly permitting him to violate the log requirements of said regulations and thereby permitting him to operate his vehicle without proper rest;

Negligently and carelessly continued to employ Leonard Ray Karnes when it knew he had been cited for thirteen log book violations, two recordable incidents, one preventable accident, and had been placed on probation for repeated log book violations in the twelve months preceding this accident;

Negligently and carelessly hired Leonard Karnes when it knew he had misrepresented his driving record. (Doc. 50). The Second Amended Complaint also added Counts IX, X, XI, and XII, all alleging that Defendants conspired to "[d]estroy or otherwise dispose of Leanard Ray Karnes' log book entries for July 5, 2003 and July 6, 2003" and "[c]oncealed the number of hours Leonard Ray Karnes had been on duty without the requisite number of hours of rest as prescribed by law." (Doc. 50). The Second Amended Complaint further added Counts XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, and XX -- Negligent Spoilation of Evidence, which alleges that Defendants "[n]egligently and carelessly lost or destroyed the logs of July 5, 2003 and July 6, 2003." (Doc. 50).

On October 3, 2005, Defendants filed answers to the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 52, 53). On January 20, 2006, a Stipulated Motion to Continue (Doc. 68) was filed, seeking to continue a settlement conference and also seeking a later trial date in order to afford sufficient time to complete necessary discovery (Doc. 68). On January 25, 2006, the Court granted the motion, resetting the presumptive trial month to September 2006 (Doc. 70). However, the Motion did not specifically request an extension of the discovery or dispositive motion deadlines.

On January 26, 2006, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 71). This time, Plaintiffs sought "to add additional charging allegations as to the conspiracy counts." (Doc. 71, ¶ 2). On February 23, 2006, the Court granted the motion, finding that the additional claim is related to those made in the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 72). Plaintiffs then filed their Third Amended Complaint, alleging that Defendants, in furtherance of the conspiracy:

Filed a false sworn answer to an interrogatory asserting Leonard Ray Karnes had "slept 8 hours or greater in Effingham, Illinois" when they knew such answer was false and fraudulent as evidenced by the vehicles Qualcomm software program, information they had in their possession when the answer was filed, but withheld from plaintiffs. (Doc. 73). Both Defendants answered the Third Amended Complaint on March 20, 2006 (Doc. 76, 77). On June 23, 2006, the District Court then set a final pretrial conference for August 14, 2006 (Doc. 86).

On June 29, 2006, the Stipulated Motion to Continue Settlement Conference and Trial Date was filed (Doc. 88), which sought additional time to complete discovery, and a new Scheduling Order. On July 20, 2006, the Court in part granted the motion, resetting the presumptive trial month to December 2006, resetting the discovery deadline to August 8, 2006, but refusing to further extend the dispositive motion deadline, which had already lapsed (Doc. 89). The Court further clarified, "Further extensions are unlikely to be granted in the future." (Doc. 89). On September 22, 2006, however, Defendant Karnes filed a Motion to ...


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