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Joseph v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 8, 2014

STEPHEN JOSEPH, Plaintiff(s),
v.
HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant(s).

ORDER

JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is a motion to reconsider filed by plaintiff Stephen Joseph ("Joseph"). (Doc. #65). Defendant Hartford Fire Insurance Company ("Hartford") filed a response in opposition, (doc. #72), which it later supplemented, (doc. # 75).

Also before the court is Hartford's motion to strike the expert portion of Joseph's supplemental disclosure. (Doc. # 76). Joseph filed a response in opposition, (doc. # 86), and Hartford filed a reply, (doc # 91).

I. Background

This action centers upon an auto insurance dispute between Joseph and Hartford. Joseph alleges that he was injured in a car accident and Hartford refuses to grant him the full amount to which he is entitled under his underinsured motorist policy.

Joseph did not disclose any expert witnesses prior to the stipulated disclosure deadline, October 3, 2013. On January 31, 2014, Hartford moved to exclude any previously undisclosed expert witnesses due to plaintiff's failure to meet the requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. Joseph opposed the motion, stating that he intended to call two of his treating physicians as non-retained experts at trial. At a hearing on the issue, Magistrate Judge Hoffman ordered that the expert witnesses be excluded, after finding that the failure to disclose was neither substantially justified nor harmless.

In the instant motion, Joseph argues that Magistrate Judge Hoffman's order was clearly erroneous and contrary to law.

II. Legal standard

Magistrate judges are authorized to resolve pretrial matters subject to district court review under a "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); D. Nev. R. 3-1(a) ("A district judge may reconsider any pretrial matter referred to a magistrate judge in a civil or criminal case pursuant to LR IB 1-3, where it has been shown that the magistrate judge's ruling is clearly erroneous or contrary to law."). "This subsection would also enable the court to delegate some of the more administrative functions to a magistrate, such as... assistance in the preparation of plans to achieve prompt disposition of cases in the court." Gomez v. United States, 490 U.S. 858, 869 (1989).

"A finding is clearly erroneous when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing body on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Ressam, 593 F.3d 1095, 1118 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted). "An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure." Global Advanced Metals USA, Inc. v. Kemet Blue Powder Corp., 2012 WL 3884939, at *3 (D. Nev. 2012).

A magistrate's pretrial order issued under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) is not subject to de novo review, and the reviewing court "may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court." Grimes v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991).

III. Discussion

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(1) provides, "If a party fails to provide information or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a)... the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless." Joseph argues that Magistrate Judge Hoffman clearly erred in finding ...


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