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Zaragoza v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 22, 2019

VINCENTE ZARAGOZA
v.
HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

         SECTION "F"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the defendants' motion to strike plaintiff's expert witnesses for failure to comply with the scheduling order. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         Background

         This personal injury lawsuit arises from a car accident. Vincente Zaragoza alleges that Joshua Emery, who drove a van while working for Rent-A-Center, crashed into Zaragoza's Trailblazer while the two were driving east on U.S. Highway 90B in Orleans Parish.

         Zaragoza sued Emery, Rent-A-Center, Inc., and Hartford Fire Insurance Company in state court to recover for his injuries. The defendants removed the case to this Court, invoking the Court's diversity jurisdiction. The Court issued a scheduling order selecting a March 25, 2019 jury trial date as well as other deadlines including deadlines for exchanging expert reports. The scheduling order mandates that the plaintiff's written expert reports must be delivered to the defendants no later than December 6, 2018 and that the defendants' written expert reports must be delivered to the plaintiff no later than January 3, 2019.[1] The Court admonishes counsel in the scheduling order that:

The Court will not permit any witnesses, expert or fact, to testify or any exhibits to be used unless there has been compliance with this Order as it pertains to the witness and/or exhibits, without an order to do so issued on motion for good cause shown. ...
Deadlines, cut-off dates, or other limits fixed herein may only be extended by the Court upon timely motion filed in compliance with the Local Rules and upon showing of good cause....

         The plaintiff did not provide the defendants with any expert reports by December 6, 2018. However, in his witness list filed on January 3, 2019, the plaintiff lists two expert witnesses, Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D. and Ralph A. Litolff, Jr., CPA/CFF/ABV, CVA, MBA. The defendants now move to strike and exclude these two expert witnesses.

         I.

         Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “authorizes federal courts to control and expedite the discovery process through a scheduling order.” Barrett v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 95 F.3d 375, 380 (5th Cir. 1996). Required content of the scheduling order includes deadlines to amend pleadings, complete discovery, and file motions. The scheduling order may be modified “only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). “The good cause standard requires the party seeking relief to show that the deadlines cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party needing the extension." S&W Enters. v. Southtrust Bank of Ala., 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir. 2003).

         “Consistent with the authority vested in the trial court by Rule 16 . . . the trial court [has] broad discretion to preserve the integrity and purpose of the pretrial order.” Geiserman v. MacDonald, 893 F.2d 787, 790 (5th Cir. 1990)(internal citations omitted). This broad discretion includes the decision to exclude evidence as a means of enforcing a pretrial order. Davis v. Duplantis, 448 F.2d 918, 921 (5th Cir. 1971). Rule 37(c) also vests the Court with discretion to impose sanctions, including the decision to exclude expert testimony for violations of Rule 26. Barrett, 95 F.3d at 380. The trial court's “decision as to the extent that pretrial activity should prevent the introduction of otherwise competent and relevant testimony at trial must not be disturbed unless it is demonstrated that he has clearly abused the broad discretion vested in him by Rule 16.” Davis, 448 F.2d at 921.

         To determine if the district court abused its discretion in excluding expert ...


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