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Scott v. Smith's Food and Drug Centers, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 22, 2019

ANN SCOTT, Plaintiffs,


         Presently before the court is defendant Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Inc.'s (“defendant”) motion to exclude plaintiff's claim for future medical expenses, lost wages, and other miscellaneous damages. (ECF No. 27). Plaintiff Ann Scott (“plaintiff”) filed an untimely response (ECF No. 32), to which defendant replied (ECF No. 41).

         Also before the court is Magistrate Judge Ferenbach's report and recommendation (“R&R”) regarding defendant's motion to exclude. (ECF No. 31). Plaintiff objected (ECF No. 33), and defendant responded (ECF No. 38).

         I. Background

         The instant action is a slip-and-fall case. (ECF No. 1-1). On July 13, 2017, plaintiff slipped on a puddle of water that collected in an indentation on the floor of aisle 7[1] in the Smith's grocery store in Mesquire, Nevada. (ECF No. 43 at 2). As plaintiff fell, she hit her head on the metal shelves, causing two subdural hematomas (brain bleeds), which required emergency surgery. Id. Plaintiff filed the instant action in Nevada state court in December 2017. (ECF No. 1-1). Defendant timely removed the action to federal court in February 2018. (ECF No. 1).

         The parties conducted their Rule 26(f) conference on February 19, 2018. (ECF No. 7). Pursuant to Rule 26(a)(1)(A)(iii), plaintiff was obligated to make and disclose a reasonable computation of her damages by April 2, 2018. (ECF No. 27 at 3); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. Although plaintiff included a “future medical” section in her initial disclosure, she later withdrew it.[2] (ECF No. 27 at 3).

         Defendant then moved to exclude plaintiff's claims for future medical expenses, lost wages, and other miscellaneous damages because plaintiff failed to disclose a computation of such damages pursuant to Rule 26. See generally Id. The deadline to respond to defendant's motion was October 19, 2018. (ECF No. 27 at 3). The day plaintiff's response was due, plaintiff contacted defendant, who stipulated to extend the deadline until October 25. (ECF No. 41 at 3).

         Despite the extension, plaintiff failed to respond. Judge Ferenbach issued his R&R on November 2, 2018, granting defendant's motion pursuant to Local Rule 7-2.[3] (ECF No. 31). Five days after Judge Ferenbach's R&R was entered, plaintiff finally responded (ECF No. 32) and contemporaneously filed an objection to the R&R (ECF No. 33).

         II. Legal Standard

         A party may file specific written objections to the findings and recommendations of a United States magistrate judge made pursuant to Local Rule IB 1-4. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); LR IB 3-2. Where a party timely objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the court is required to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the [report and recommendation] to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate.” Id. However, “a district court may not reject the factual findings of a magistrate judge on a motion to suppress without conducting a de novo evidentiary hearing.” United States v. Ridgway, 300 F.3d 1153, 1155 (citing United States v. Bergera, 512 F.2d 391, 392-94 (9th Cir. 1975)).

         Pursuant to Local Rule IB 3-2(a), a party may object to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge within fourteen (14) days from the date of service of the findings and recommendations. Similarly, Local Rule 7-2 provides that a party must file an opposition to a motion within fourteen (14) days after service of the motion.

         III. Discussion

         The district court is vested with broad authority to impose sanctions “as are just, ” so long as the court does not abuse its discretion in doing so. Yeti by Molly, Ltd. v. Deckers Outdoor Corp., 259 F.3d 1101, 1106 (9th Cir. 2001); Payne v. Exxon Corp., 121 F.3d 503, 507 (9th Cir. 1997); Stars' Desert Inn Hotel & Country Club, Inc. v. Hwang, 105 F.3d 521, 524 (9th Cir. 1997); Sigliano v. Mendoza, 642 F.2d 309, 310 (9th Cir. 1981). The Ninth Circuit “give[s] particularly wide latitude to the district court's discretion to issue sanctions under Rule 37(c)(1).” Yeti by Molly, 259 F.3d at 1106. Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit has identified five factors for the district court to consider before imposing severe sanctions, which are instructive here: “(1) the public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court's need to manage its docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the other party; (4) the public policy favoring the disposition of cases on their merits; and (5) the availability of less drastic sanctions.” Payne, 121 F.3d at 507 (discussing dismissal and default); Hwang, 105 F.3d at 524.

         “If full compliance with Rule 26(a) is not made, Rule 37(c)(1) mandates some sanction, ‘the degree and severity of which are within the discretion of the trial judge.'” Cohen v. Hansen, No. 2:12-CV-01401-JCM-PAL, 2014 WL 1873968, at *11 (D. Nev. May 8, 2014) (quoting Keener v. United States, 181 F.R.D. 639, 641 (D. Mont. 1998)). Although information that a party fails to timely disclose as required by Rule 26 is ordinarily excluded, Rule 37 expressly carves out an exception when “the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1). Thus, the court will consider the Payne factors and the express language of Rule 37(c)(1) when determining the appropriate sanctions in the instant case.

         As an initial matter, Richard Harris Law Firm's failure to disclose its computation of plaintiff's future damages is not “substantially justified.” Nor is Richard Harris Law Firm substantially justified in failing to respond to the instant motion to exclude. To the contrary, after defendant stipulated to extend the deadline for Richard Harris Law Firm to respond the “new deadline was not entered on [Richard Harris Law Firm's] master calendar and an opposition to [defendant's] [m]otion for [e]xclusion was not timely filed.” (ECF No. 32 at 2 n.1). Plaintiff's untimely response goes on to explain the extensive disclosures that she made to defendant regarding expert opinions, medical evidence, and damages. Se ...

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