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Phillips v. Exact Sciences

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

January 16, 2020

TINA PHILLIPS
v.
EXACT SCIENCES, ET AL

          FOOTE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Mark L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Introduction

         This is a sexual harassment and retaliation against Plaintiff's former employer, Exact Sciences, and her supervisor, Andrew Stell. The key issue in this case is whether Plaintiff's termination was based on a legitimate business reason or whether her termination was due to her rebuffing defendant Stell's advances and/or her subsequent reporting of his conduct.

         Before the court is Defendants' Motion to Compel (Doc. 30) and Plaintiff's Motion to Withdraw and/or Amend Admissions (Doc. 36). The motion to compel sets forth that Defendants granted Plaintiff a one-week extension of the original due date to respond to Defendants' first set of discovery requests, which included requests for admissions, interrogatories, and requests for production. However, Plaintiff did not respond by the agreed upon extended deadline. The motion also states that Plaintiff did not request an additional extension until five days after the extended deadline had passed. Defendants state that when Plaintiff's counsel asked for an additional extension of time, Defendants' counsel denied the request because granting it would have prejudiced their clients. Defendants seek an order compelling Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' outstanding discovery requests, holding open Plaintiff's deposition for any follow-up on any late served responses, and deeming all requests for admission to be admitted.

         Plaintiff's motion to withdraw concedes that an extension of time was granted only until November 15, 2019. However, Plaintiff's counsel represents that she repeatedly provided opposing counsel good faith estimates of when Plaintiff's discovery responses would be complete, and she sought only the minimum extension believed necessary at the time. Plaintiff states that Defendants refused to grant any extension, even when Plaintiff proposed options (including resetting additional deadlines or asking to vacate the scheduling order) to eliminate any prejudice. Plaintiff also states that her responses and objections were tendered on November 27, 2019, twelve days after Defendants' agreed upon extension of time. In attempting to show good faith and diligence on the part of Plaintiff in responding to discovery, Plaintiff states:

Undersigned counsel made diligent and good faith efforts to comply with her discovery obligations, but as with many wronged employees, Ms. Phillips is unfamiliar with the litigation process, and she unfortunately was dealing with personal issues [the death of her father] that prevented her from being responsive to her counsel.

         Plaintiff argues there was no bad faith on her part, and there is no real prejudice to Defendant if the deemed admissions are withdrawn and her objections are allowed.

         Law and Analysis

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a) provides that requests for admissions are deemed admitted if not answered within 30 days. Any matter admitted under Rule 36(a) is deemed conclusively established unless the court permits withdrawal of the admission. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(b). The court may permit withdrawal of an admission if the withdrawal (1) would serve the presentation of the case on its merits, but (2) would not prejudice the party that obtained the admission in its presentation of the case. Kingman Holdings, LLC v. Bank of America, 2015 WL 11661768 (W.D. Tex. 2015), citing In re Carney, 258 F.3d 415, 419 (5th Cir. 2001). Even when the two-prong test is satisfied, however, the court retains discretion to deny a request to withdraw an admission. Id.

         The first prong of the Rule 36(b) framework requires that the withdrawal promote the presentation of the claims on the merits of the case. Mendez v. Joeris General Contractors, Ltd., 2013 WL 3153982 (W.D. Tex. 2013). Withdrawal of a deemed admission is appropriate in cases in which the admissions at issue directly bear on the merits of the case. Id.

         The second prong established by the Rule 36(b) framework requires that the party opposing withdrawal not be prejudiced by the withdrawal. Mendez, supra. Prejudice may occur where the party faces special difficulties caused by a sudden need to obtain evidence upon withdrawal or amendment of an admission. American Automobile Ass'n v. AAA Legal Clinic, 930 F.2d 1117, 1120 (5th Cir. 1991). However, the necessity of having to convince a trier of fact of the truth of a matter erroneously admitted is not sufficient. North Louisiana Rehab Ctr., Inc. v. United States, 179 F.Supp.2d 658, 663 (W.D. La. 2001).

         After considering the relevant factors, the court grants Plaintiff's Motion to Withdraw and/or Amend Admissions (Doc. 36). The court finds that there was no bad faith or dilatory intent, especially when Plaintiff's counsel provided opposing counsel with good faith estimates of when Plaintiff's discovery responses would be complete. The court takes Plaintiff's counsel at her word when she says that Plaintiff was not responsive to her because Plaintiff was dealing with issues that arose as a result of the death of her father.

         Some of the requests for admissions sought to have Plaintiff admit that Defendants reasons for her termination are accurate. Of course, these issues go to the heart of the case. Allowing such admissions to stand would definitely impact the presentation of the merits of the case. Defendants had to know that Plaintiff disputed whether ...


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