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Peeler v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 25, 2019

MACIE PEELER, Plaintiff,



         Presently before the court are Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery (ECF No. 36), Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery (ECF No. 41), and Defendant's Reply In Support Of Its Motion to Stay Discovery (ECF No. 42), filed on May 8, 2019, May 21, 2019, and May 28, 2019, respectively. Defendant seeks to stay discovery because it currently has a motion for summary judgment pending. (ECF No. 34.) In addition to opposing this motion to stay, Plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Individual Discovery Plan and Scheduling Order on May 8, 2019 (ECF No. 37), which is also presently before the court.


         Plaintiff was in a car accident with Anthony Aiello in 2013. (ECF No. 34 at 3.) At the time of the accident, Plaintiff had an insurance policy with Defendant, which provided uninsured motor vehicle coverage. (Id. at 3-4.) This policy provided Plaintiff coverage for bodily injury if she was involved in an accident with an uninsured (or underinsured) motor vehicle and she established (1) fault by the uninsured/underinsured tortfeasor (Mr. Aiello) and (2) the extent of Plaintiff's damages resulting from the car accident. (ECF Nos. 34 at 3-4, 38 at 7.)

         Plaintiff initiated two lawsuits after her car accident: one in state court against Mr. Aiello and one (now in federal court) against Defendant to recover her insurance benefits. (ECF No. 34 at 3, 5.)

         The state court action alleged that Mr. Aiello was at fault for the 2013 car accident involving Plaintiff. (ECF No. 41 at 3.) At trial, Mr. Aiello apparently admitted he was at fault on the record. (ECF No. 38 at 10; Ex. 3.) However, the jury found for Mr. Aiello and did not award Plaintiff any damages. (ECF No. 34; Ex. E.)

         This action originated in state court and the Defendant subsequently removed it to federal court. (ECF No. 1.) In this case, Plaintiff alleges two causes of action against Defendant: (1) breach of contract and (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. (ECF No. 7.) Essentially, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant breached the parties' insurance contract and acted in bad faith by failing to pay Plaintiff the benefits to which she is allegedly entitled under her insurance contract. (Id. at 4-5.)

         Because of the pending and related state court case, this case was stayed on April 30, 2018. (ECF No. 30.) On March 29, 2019, Plaintiff moved to lift the stay because the jury reached a verdict in the state court action. (ECF No. 32.) The court granted Plaintiff's motion and lifted the stay on April 8, 2019. (ECF No. 33.)

         Defendant immediately moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the jury's verdict in the state court action prevents Plaintiff from recovering from Defendant in this case. (ECF No. 34). Defendant also now seeks to stay discovery until its motion for summary judgment is decided. (ECF No. 36.)

         Importantly, after the court lifted the stay in this case, Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial in the state court action. (ECF No. 38 at 4; Ex. 4.) A hearing on Plaintiff's motion for a new trial is currently set for July 31, 2019.


         Courts have broad discretionary power to control discovery. See Little v. City of Seattle, 863 F.2d 681, 685 (9th Cir. 1988). When deciding whether to grant a stay of discovery, the court is guided by the objectives of Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 1 that ensures a “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Kor Media Group, LLC v. Green, 294 F.R.D. 579, 581 (D. Nev. 2013). Accordingly, considerations of judicial economy and preserving the parties' resources may warrant a stay in some cases. U.S. for Use & Benefit of Newton v. Neumann Caribbean Int'l, Ltd., 750 F.2d 1422, 1426-27 (9th Cir. 1985).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not, however, provide for automatic or blanket stays of discovery just because a potentially dispositive motion is pending. See Skellerup Indus. Ltd. v. City of L.A., 163 F.R.D. 598, 600-01 (C.D. Cal. 1995). In fact, a dispositive motion ordinarily does not warrant a stay of discovery. See Twin City Fire Ins. v. Employers of Wausau, 124 F.R.D. 652, 653 (D. Nev. 1989); Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Tracinda Corp., 175 F.R.D. 554, 556 (D. Nev. 1997). However, when a party moves for a stay because a dispositive motion is pending, the court may grant the stay when “(1) the pending motion is potentially dispositive; (2) the potentially dispositive motion can be decided without additional discovery; and (3) the court has taken a ‘preliminary peek' at the merits of the potentially dispositive motion and is convinced that the plaintiff will be unable to state a claim for relief.” Kor Media Group, 294 F.R.D. at 581.

         Here, Defendant requested a stay of discovery because it has a motion for summary judgment pending. After conducting its “preliminary peek” at Defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court finds that a stay of discovery is inappropriate under the Kor Media factors, because it is not convinced that Defendant will prevail on its motion for summary judgment, as discussed in more detail below. However, the court will nonetheless stay discovery in this case based on its inherent authority and to prevent unnecessary waste of the parties' and the court's resources. See Little, 863 F.2d at 685; U.S. for Use & Benefit of Newton, 750 F.2d at 1426-27 (staying case pending conclusion of related arbitration not an abuse of discretion, as it was supported by considerations of economy and ...

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