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Candelaria v. Molina Healthcare, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 24, 2019

NORA CANDELARIA, Plaintiff,
v.
MOLINA HEALTHCARE, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING EXTENSION OF CLASS CERTIFICATION DEADLINE

          GREGORY B. WORMUTH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion to Extend Deadline for Class Certification and All Subsequent Deadlines. Doc. 34. Having reviewed the motion and attendant briefing (doc. 36), and heard oral argument on the matter (doc. 42), the Court will DENY Plaintiff’s Motion for the reasons that follow.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed her complaint in this action, entitled “Original Class Action Complaint, ” on July 27, 2018. Doc. 1. It was initially characterized as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, see doc. 1 at 1, and neither party has at any time denied Plaintiff’s original intent to move for class certification under Rule 23. The currently operative First Amended Class Action Complaint was filed on September 12, 2018. Doc. 3.

         On November 28, 2018, the parties filed a Joint Status Report and Provisional Discovery Plan in which they proposed a motion for class certification deadline of June 1, 2019. See doc. 18 at 1. This deadline was specifically discussed at the December 18, 2019 Rule 16 Scheduling Conference. See doc. 21. As the minutes to that conference reflect, the “Court expressed its concern with the lateness of June as the deadline for a motion for class certification.” Id. The Court’s concern arose from the reality that the nature of discovery can change dramatically when a case is certified as a class action. With such a late certification motion deadline, the parties would be using five months of discovery pre-certification and would only have two months left after the filing of the motion. Indeed, the parties would have even less time for post-certification discovery if the motion were opposed given time for briefing and decision. Nonetheless, both counsel expressed support for the later deadline. Id. Consequently, the “Court stated that it would adopt the proposed class certification deadline, ” but explicitly warned “that it would be unlikely to grant extensions.” Id.; see also doc. 22 at 1 (“the Joint Status Report, after consultation with the parties, is adopted as an order of the Court”).

         Five and a half months and the June 1 deadline came and went without any motion by Plaintiff to certify a class. Plaintiff’s counsel was alerted to the missed deadline a month later, on July 1, 2019, during a teleconference with counsel for Defendants. See doc. 34 at 7–8. On July 23, 2019, more than three weeks after that alert and more than fifty days after the deadline, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Extend Deadline for Class Certification and All Subsequent Deadlines. Id. Plaintiff requested that the deadline for the motion for certification be extended until 14 days after the order deciding the Motion and further that the deadline for the close of discovery be moved back such that it would be “in the same position … relative to the June 1, 2019, deadline.” Id. at 2. Even assuming an instantaneous ruling when the motion was fully briefed after an ordinary briefing period under the local rules, Plaintiff’s request would have led to a certification motion deadline of September 3, 2019 and moving the close of discovery back to November 3, 2019. The excuse for missing the deadline was a “calendaring error in Plaintiff’s counsel’s office.” Id. at 2. On this basis, Plaintiff argued that she had satisfied the applicable standards for extension under both Rule 6 and Rule 16. See id. at 8–21. In addition, Plaintiff’s counsel described ongoing discussions following a late-May 2019[1] conference between counsel regarding a proposed stipulation which could have impacted the planned class certification motion. See id. at 6.

         Defendants filed a response in opposition on July 26, 2019, arguing that Plaintiff had satisfied neither Rule 6 or Rule 16 and citing examples of Plaintiff’s “persistent, careless inattention to court-ordered deadlines.” See doc. 36 at 4. In particular, Defendants made reference to Plaintiff’s “woefully deficient” written discovery responses. Id. at 4. For example, on May 20, 2019, Defendants had filed a motion to compel “meaningful and certified responses” to their interrogatories and requests for production. Doc. 24 at 3. Although Plaintiff requested an extension to respond, see doc. 29, which was granted, see doc. 30, Plaintiff failed to file any response. Therefore, the Court granted Defendants’ Motion to Compel Discovery and ordered Plaintiff to provide meaningful and certified responses to Defendants’ written discovery requests no later than July 16, 2019. See doc. 31. In their response to the present Motion to Extend, however, Defendants assert that Plaintiff disobeyed the Court’s Order by providing uncertified interrogatory responses. See doc. 36 at 5. In addition, Defendants allege that Plaintiff’s counsel have been unable to reach Plaintiff, who refused to appear for deposition. See id. Defendants urge the Court to deny any extension of deadlines on Plaintiff’s behalf.

         Plaintiff elected not to file a reply in support of her Motion to Extend. See doc. 40 at 1 n.1. However, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (doc. 33) and the related briefing (docs. 37, 38, 39, 41) shed some additional light on the factual circumstances to which Defendants allude. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint and for Sanctions on July 23, 2019, immediately prior to Plaintiff’s filing her Motion to Extend. See doc. 33. In their motion, Defendants requested dismissal of the complaint “for failure to cooperate in discovery and for violating this Court’s July 2, 2019 Order compelling discovery.” Id. at 1. They proceeded to outline many of the facts contained in their response to the Motion to Extend, including Plaintiff’s inadequate discovery responses, failure to comply with the order compelling discovery, and refusal to appear for her deposition. See id. at 2–4.

         Plaintiff-or, more accurately, Plaintiff’s counsel-responded to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss on August 6, 2019. Doc. 37. Plaintiff’s counsel acknowledged for the first time that Plaintiff Candelaria “no longer wished to be the lead plaintiff in this case, ” id. at 2, a circumstance which was by no means made apparent in the Motion to Extend, see generally doc. 34.[2] Plaintiff’s counsel then indicated their intent to file a Motion to Substitute as Lead Plaintiff by Friday, August 9, 2019. See doc. 37 at 2. As of the date of this Order (almost fifty days later), no such motion has been filed. Plaintiff’s counsel provided just under one page of legal argument in opposition to Defendants’ motion, stating: “Plaintiff Candelaria does not oppose the dismissal of her individual claims.” Id. at 5. However, Plaintiff’s counsel alleged a duty on the part of the Court to protect the interests of absent class members and urged the Court to grant the supposedly forthcoming Motion to Substitute. See id.

         On Plaintiff’s request, see doc. 34 at 21, the Court held a telephonic motion hearing on Plaintiff’s Motion to Extend on August 22, 2019. See doc. 42. Plaintiff’s counsel acknowledged that Ms. Candelaria, the named Plaintiff, no longer wished to participate in the litigation. See id. at 2. In response to the allegations of misconduct raised in Defendants’ response, Plaintiff’s counsel was unable to dispute that Plaintiff’s discovery requests were not certified. See id. The Court considers this failure a concession of the point.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Applicable Rule

         Plaintiff seeks to extend the relevant deadlines under both Rule 6, see doc. 34 at 8, and Rule 16, see doc. 34 at 18. The deadline of June 1, 2019 for Plaintiff to file a motion for class certification was contained in the Court’s Order Setting Pretrial Deadlines and Briefing Schedule, see doc. 22 at 1, as were the “subsequent [discovery] deadlines” that Plaintiff now seeks to extend, see generally id. In requesting extension, therefore, Plaintiff must indeed satisfy the standard of Rule 16, which “specifically governs amendments to scheduling orders.” Zisumbo v. Ogden Reg’l Med. Ctr., 801 F.3d 1185, 1195 (10th Cir. 2015). It is less clear whether Plaintiff must also satisfy the standard of Rule 6, which deals with extensions of time generally. However, as explained below, the Court analyzes both and finds that Plaintiff fails to satisfy either one.

         In Gorsuch, Ltd., B.C. v. Wells Fargo Nat’l Bank Ass’n, 771 F.3d 1230, 1240 (10th Cir. 2014), the Tenth Circuit addressed the analogous situation in which a plaintiff moves to amend his complaint after the scheduling order deadline for such a motion. Despite the existence of a specific procedural rule governing amendment, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), the Tenth Circuit held that parties moving to amend after the deadline in the scheduling order must satisfy both the Rule 15 requirements and Rule 16’s good cause standard. See Gorsuch, 771 F.3d at 1240 (“After a scheduling order deadline, a party seeking leave to amend must demonstrate (1) good cause for seeking modification under Fed R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4) and (2) satisfaction of the Rule 15(a) standard.”) (emphasis added). Therefore, the Court concludes that the Rule 16 “good cause” standard must be satisfied whenever parties seek to amend a deadline contained in a scheduling order.

         Whether a party must additionally satisfy Rule 6 in seeking extension of a scheduled deadline is unclear. Although the Tenth Circuit’s ruling in Gorsuch requires plaintiffs moving for amendment after the deadline to satisfy both Rule 16 and Rule 15, it does not require them to satisfy Rule 6. See also Birch v. Polaris Indus., 812 F.3d 1238, 1249 n.2 (10th Cir. 2015) (noting that the lower court’s analysis, which included a consideration of “excusable neglect” under Rule 6, “differs-albeit marginally-from the procedure we outlined in Gorsuch”). However, the Tenth Circuit has not addressed the particular context of motions to extend class certification or other discovery deadlines after the date set in the scheduling order has passed. To account for the possibility that satisfaction of Rule 6 is required in addition to satisfaction of Rule 16, the Court will address both rules.

         B. Rule 16(b)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) provides that a “schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge’s consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4).

         There is scant case law from the Tenth Circuit applying the “good cause” standard under Rule 16(b)(4), and most of it relates specifically to untimely motions to amend the complaint. The Tenth Circuit has, however, provided a concise definition of good cause under Rule 16(b)(4): it “requires the moving party to show that it has been diligent in attempting to meet the deadlines, which means it must provide an adequate explanation for any delay.” Strope v. Collins, 315 Fed.Appx. 57, 61 (10th Cir. 2009) (unpublished) (citing Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1205 n.4 (10th Cir. 2006)). See also Gorsuch, 771 F.3d at 1240 (“In practice, this standard requires the movant to show the ‘scheduling deadlines cannot be met despite [the movant’s] diligent efforts.’”) (quoting Pumpco, Inc. v. Schenker Int’l, Inc., 204 F.R.D. 667, 668 (D. Colo. 2001)); Husky Ventures, Inc. v. B55 Invs., Ltd., 911 F.3d 1000, 1020 (10th Cir. 2018) (“good cause obligates the moving party to provide an adequate explanation for any delay”) (citations omitted).

         This definition accords with the weight of authority among other circuit courts, which have generally agreed that a finding of good cause under Rule 16(b)(4) depends primarily, or even solely, on the diligence of the party seeking extension. See, e.g., Destra v. Demings, 725 Fed.Appx. 855, 859 (11th Cir. 2018) (unpublished) (Rule 16(b)(4) “precludes modification unless the schedule cannot be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension.”) (quoting Sosa v. Airprint Sys., 133 F.3d 1417, 1418 (11th Cir. 1998)); Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 720 (7th Cir. 2011) (“In making a Rule 16(b) good-cause determination, the primary consideration for district courts is the diligence of the party seeking amendment.”); Hussain v. Nicholson, 435 F.3d 359, 367 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (Rogers, J., concurring) (“the primary consideration in determining whether the district court abused its discretion by refusing to reopen discovery is whether [the plaintiff] was diligent in conducting discovery within the schedule set by the district court”); Parker v. Columbia Pictures Indus., 204 F.3d 326, 340 (2d Cir. 2000) (“a finding of ‘good cause’ depends on the diligence of the moving party”); Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992) (“Rule 16(b)’s ‘good cause’ standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment”). Some circuits, while applying a substantially similar diligence analysis, also consider other factors. See Springboards to Educ., Inc. v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 912 F.3d 805, 819 (5th Cir. 2019) (applying four-factor test) (quotation and citation omitted); Inge v. Rock Fin. Corp., 281 F.3d 613, 625 (6th Cir. 2002) (“Another relevant consideration is possible prejudice to the party opposing the modification.”).

         In this circuit, the appellate court “afford[s] ‘wide discretion’ to a district court’s determination of whether good cause was shown under Rule 16(b)(4).” Perez v. Denver Fire Dep’t, 724 Fed.Appx. 646, 650 (10th Cir. 2018) (unpublished) (quoting Bylin v. Billings, 568 F.3d 1224, 1231 (10th Cir. 2009)).

         C. ...


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