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Experience Based Learning, Inc. v. The Hanover Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division

June 24, 2019

EXPERIENCE BASED LEARNING, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
THE HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL. Defendants.

          Rebecca R. Pallmeyer District Judge.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Iain D. Johnston United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court are a motion to modify by defendant Hibbs-Hallmark & Company and Robert Monaghan and a motion to quash by plaintiff Experience Based Learning. Dkts. 80, 81. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion to modify [80] is denied, and the plaintiff's motion to quash [81] is granted. A telephonic status is set for July 11, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. By July 8, 2019, counsel shall provide direct dial telephone numbers to the Court's operations specialist, who will initiate the call.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleged that former defendant Hanover Insurance Company breached the parties' insurance contract by failing to honor a claim for damage to plaintiff's trees caused by a beetle infestation; alternatively, plaintiff alleged breach of contract and professional negligence against its insurance agents, defendants Hibbs-Hallmark & Company and Robert Monaghan, for failing to obtain insurance coverage that would have covered the tree damage. Dkts. 44, 45.

         At the April 10, 2018 status hearing, the Court directed the parties to file a joint proposed case management order. As it does in every civil case, the Court provided the parties with a plethora of warnings about the failure to meet deadlines. For example, in the proposed case management order, which was signed by defendant's counsel, the parties are warned of the following:

These dates will not be amended absent a showing of good cause. The parties understand that motions for extensions of time should be brought as soon as possible, but at a minimum before the cut-off date, and a party's failure to do so runs the risk that the motion will be denied.

Dkt. 47 at 3 (emphasis in original). Further, the Court told the parties to propose reasonable deadlines to allow themselves enough time to complete all fact discovery. Additionally, the Court advised that if the parties had difficulty resolving discovery disputes, they should file a motion as soon as possible so the Court could keep them on track to meet the discovery deadlines. After reviewing the parties' proposed case management order, the Court adopted the very deadlines the parties had proposed: 26(a)(1) disclosures to be exchanged by May 18, 2018, amended pleadings by October 19, 2018, fact discovery completed by March 14, 2019, and expert and dispositive motion deadlines reserved. Dkt. 49.

         The parties later exchanged 26(a)(1) disclosures on May 18, 2018. As part of its disclosures, plaintiff identified Hannover claims adjusters Michael Duggan and Jason Marrero as possible witnesses with discoverable information. Dkt. 85 Ex. A at 2. Defendants disclosed Michael Duggan, Jason Marrero, and Hanover insurance underwriter Valarie Garren as witnesses with possible discoverable information. Id. Ex. B at 2. On November 15, 2018, plaintiff dismissed Hanover from this suit by stipulation, leaving Hibbs-Hallmark & Company and Robert Monaghan as the remaining defendants. Dkts. 60, 61.

         On January 25, 2019, plaintiff moved for leave to file its Third Amended Complaint, which dropped all claims against former defendant Hanover and kept the breach of contract and professional negligence claims against remaining defendants Hibbs-Hallmark and Monaghan. Dkt. 71. The Court granted the motion at a hearing on January 31, 2019.[1] Dkts. 67, 72. Defendants' counsel also indicated at the hearing that she wished to depose three witnesses located in California and that she foresaw no issues with meeting the impending fact discovery cutoff date of March 14, 2019. Defendants' counsel made no mention of any desire to depose any witnesses identified as Hanover employees. The parties deposed plaintiff's principal Steve Gustafson on February 25, 2019 and completed the three California depositions by March 1, 2019. Dkt. 85 at 4. The March 14 fact discovery deadline passed with neither party seeking to extend the deadline.

         Thereafter, during a telephonic status hearing on March 21, 2019, defendants indicated for the first time that they wished to depose two additional out-of-state fact witnesses and now former employees of Hanover:[2] specifically, a claims adjuster and an underwriter who worked for Hanover on the insurance claim at issue in this case. Defendants claimed that these depositions became necessary after information came to light during Gustafson's deposition on February 25, 2019, and that they would need 45 days to complete these depositions. The Court asked defense counsel why Gustafson was not deposed until two weeks before the end of fact discovery. Defense counsel replied that scheduling issues and settlement negotiations delayed Gustafson's deposition. Plaintiff objected to the oral request for an extension, and the Court directed defendants to file a written motion to seek leave to take the two depositions.[3] Defendants filed the instant motion to modify on March 28, 2019, seeking 30 days to complete the depositions. Dkt. 81.

         Two weeks later, plaintiff filed a motion to quash. Dkt. 81. According to the motion, defendants had served subpoenas[4] to both Hanover claims adjusters and the underwriter before plaintiff responded to defendants' motion to modify the deadline to take those depositions.[5] Id. at 2. Thus, plaintiff asks the Court to quash the subpoenas because they seek discovery after the fact discovery deadline in violation of Local Rule 16.1(4).

         ANALYSIS

         The parties focus their briefs analyzing whether an extension is warranted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(B).[6] However, for the reasons discussed below, the motion to modify is properly analyzed under Rule 16(b)(4)'s “good cause” standard. Because the Court would deny the motion to modify under either standard, the Court will address both.

         I. ...


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