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Shah v. American Bottling Co.

October 2, 2009

NILAY SHAH, AND MIHIR, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN BOTTLING CO., INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

On May 26, 2009, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 17). Plaintiff's Response was due by June 19, 2009. On June 16, 2009, Plaintiff filed for an extension of time (Doc. 24), which was granted; Plaintiff's response deadline was extended to July 14, 2009. (Text Only Order of June 19, 2009). On July 14, 2009, Plaintiff again requested an extension of time to file a response. (Doc. 26). Defendant's counsel opposed this extension. (Doc. 28). This Court granted the second motion to extend Plaintiff's response deadline to August 17, 2009, but cautioned Plaintiff that "Plaintiff's counsel will be allowed no further extensions of the response deadline, absent extraordinary circumstances." (Text Only Order of July 24, 2009). On August 18, 2009, after the twice-extended response deadline had passed, Plaintiff filed its Motion for Leave to File Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 30). Defendant filed an Objection to this most recent motion on August 21, 2009. (Doc. 31). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE UNTIMELY RESPONSE

Plaintiff's instant Motion for Leave to File, which in effect seeks an extension of time, is in violation of Local Rule 6.1, which provides "Any party seeking an extension of time for any reason must file a motion for such extension before the original deadline. Motions filed out of time will be denied, unless the presiding judge determines that such denial would create a substantial injustice. All such motions. . .must state whether opposing counsel has objection to the motion." Given that Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File related to a motion for summary judgment, Local Rule 7.1(D) applies, as well. Local Rule 7.1(D) particularly notes that extensions of time for the filing of motions related to summary judgment are disfavored, and "such motions may be summarily denied unless they are filed within the original time as allowed by this rule or by the scheduling order."

Here, Plaintiff's counsel did not file his motion until after the original deadline had expired, which had itself been extended twice at Plaintiff's counsel's request, and he did not state whether opposing counsel had an objection to it. This is in violation of Local Rule 6.1. Given the previous extensions, the forseeability of the problems tendered as excuses by Plaintiff's counsel in his motion,*fn1 and the disfavor with which the Local Rules regard motions for extension of time to file Responses to Motions for Summary Judgment, the Court finds that, under the Local Rules, there will be no substantial injustice in refusing to allow Plaintiff's counsel to file his Response late.

This decision to enforce the Local Rules is well within the discretion of the Court. "In exercising discretion regarding enlargements of time, courts should be mindful that the rules are 'intended to force parties and their attorneys to be diligent in prosecuting their causes of action.' Deadlines, in the law business, serve a useful purpose and reasonable adherence to them is to be encouraged." Spears v. City of Indianapolis, 74 F.3d 153, 157 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Geiger v. Allen, 850 F.2d 330, 331 (7th Cir.1988)). When he missed the most recent deadline, Plaintiff's counsel was on his second motion for extension of time to file his response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; he had been allowed two months beyond the original deadline of August 17, 2009. This Court exercised its discretion to grant Plaintiff's previous two motions for extension of time, though they were also based on routine time-management problems entirely within the control of Plaintiff's counsel, not on any unforeseeable or extraordinary occurrences. However, the Court cautioned that no further extensions would be granted.

In light of this history, the Court now denies Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly held that a district court is within its discretion to enforce the deadlines set by Local Rules and scheduling orders, including as to summary judgment motions, where the failure to respond is deemed an admission, by refusing to allow late filings. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600 (7th Cir. 2006); Gonzalez v. Ingersoll Mill. Mach. Co. 133 F.3d 1025 (7th Cir. 1998); Reales v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 84 F.3d 993 (7th Cir. 1996); Spears, 74 F.3d 153; Wienco, Inc. v. Katahn Associates, Inc., 965 F.2d 565 (7th Cir. 1992). Refusing to excuse even an unforeseeable one-day delay is within the discretion of the trial court. Reales, 84 F.3d at 997; Spears, 74 F.3d at 156-57. Here, Plaintiff's counsel's delay was not due to unforeseeable circumstances, but his own failure to properly judge the amount of time needed for the Response.

Plaintiff's counsel was warned on July 24, 2009, that he would be allowed no further extensions absent extraordinary circumstances. Raymond, 442 F.3d at 607-08 (district judge not required to warn counsel that previous extension was final extension before rejecting untimely response to motion for summary judgment). He has not shown extraordinary circumstances or even good cause for his delay in filing this most recent motion: he merely states that, though he had "substantially completed the Response on August 17, 2009," he was delayed in filing because of "the time involved in reviewing the record citations with his law clerk and inserting the statement of facts in the body of the response and compilation of the exhibits." (Doc. 30 at 1). Given the July 24 warning by the Court, this is not excusable neglect.

As noted by our Circuit Court, "[w]hen parties wait until the last minute to comply with a deadline, they are playing with fire." Spears, 74 F.3d at 157. Failing to allow sufficient time to check citations, draft key components of a filing, and compile exhibits, especially considering the two months of extensions already allowed and the warning from the Court, is indeed "playing with fire." These are completely foreseeable, indeed necessary, parts of filing a Response to a Motion for Summary Judgment, and a competent attorney will plan on the need to complete these tasks. This Court will not allow its deadlines or Local Rules to be ignored so cavalierly, especially when an attorney has been made aware that he will be given no more extensions. Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied; Plaintiff may not file its untimely Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. Effect of Plaintiff's Failure to Timely File its Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Local Rule 7.1(D) provides that the Court may strike any filings that do not comply with the Rule. As explained above, Plaintiff has failed to comply with Local Rule 7.1(D) by its belated attempt to file its Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Therefore, the Court will strike Plaintiff's attempted untimely filing of its Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. As there is no Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff is deemed to have admitted the contents of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(D)(2), and the Motion for Summary Judgment will be decided by the Court on the record now before it. Raymond, 442 F.3d at 608; Gonzalez, 133 F.3d at 1030-31; Reales, 84 F.3d at 997; Wienco, 965 F.2d at 566-68.

II. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

"Strict enforcement of [Local Rules and deadlines] does not mean that a party's failure to submit a timely filing automatically results in summary judgment for the opposing party." Wienco, 965 F.2d at 568. Instead, this Court must evaluate the merits of Defendant's Motion for ...


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