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In re Classicstar Mare Lease Litigation

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

April 11, 2014

CLASSICSTAR, LLC, et al., Defendants. and DUMAR HORSES, L.C., Plaintiff, MDL No. 1877 No. 08-17-JMH


JOSEPH M. HOOD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon three motions: Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 80; see also DE 81, 82, 83, and 84] and Defendants GeoStar Corporation and Geostar Equine Energy, Inc.'s ("GeoStar" and "GEEI") Motion to Strike the Declaration of Duane Shaw in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 89] and Motion to Withdraw Deemed Admissions [DE 90]. Responses [DE 88, 93, 94] and Replies [DE 91, 92, 96, and 97] have been filed. These motions have been considered by the Court and are resolved as follows.

I. Motion to Withdraw Deemed Admissions

Defendants GeoStar and GEEI seek to withdraw deemed admissions because Dumar, when propounding discovery requests to Defendants, served those requests by hand-delivery to Defendants' attorneys at Snell & Wilmer, listed as counsel of record for Defendants, but failed to serve the discovery requests electronically as part of a master list of discovery requests as directed by the Court's previous orders [DE 25, 334, and 689]. Defendants ultimately proffered responses to the requests for admissions, albeit five days after learning that they had been served and eleven days after they were due. Plaintiff explains (1) that it never assented to those late responses and, in fact, only told Defendants that it might accept them depending on what Defendants' responses were and (2) that it never, ultimately, agreed to late-made responses.

Under Rule 36(a)(3), it is clear that the requests were deemed admitted since Defendants failed to respond to the requests for admission within thirty days of service. Defendants concede that they did not respond within the required time and that, thus, Plaintiff has grounds upon which to claim the admissions. This Court, however, has discretion to permit withdrawal or amendment of admissions, and the withdrawal of alleged admissions is allowed (1) "when the presentation of the merits of the action will be subserved thereby" and (2) when the party who obtained the admission fails to demonstrate to the court that the withdrawal or amendment will prejudice that party "in maintaining the action or defense on the merits." Kerry Steel, Inc. v. Paragon Indus., Inc., 106 F.3d 147, 154 (6th Cir. 1997) (quoting Amer. Auto Ass'n v. AAA Legal Clinic of Jefferson Crooke, P.C., 930 F.2d 1117, 1119 (5th Cir. 1991)).

Here, upholding the alleged admissions would be tantamount to eliminating any and all defenses to Dumar's claims. Thus, the first prong of the test is met. See Riley v. Kurtz, Case No. 98-1077, 1999 WL 801560 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Hadley v. United States, 45 F.3d 134, 1348 (9th Cir. 1995); Dynasty Apparel Indus. Inc. v. Rentz, 206 F.R.D. 596, 602 (S.D. Ohio 2001). Further, there is no real issue concerning prejudice to Plaintiff since Defendants almost immediately (and before the filing of the Motion for Summary Judgment) made their (according to Plaintiff, late) responses. See Chancellor v. City of Detroit, 454 F.Supp.2d 645 (E.D. Mich. 2006) (citing Gutting v. Falstaff Brewing Co., 710 F.2d 1309, 1313 (8th Cir. 1983)). The Court has considered Plaintiff's rationale for their belated response and concludes that their explanation is reasonable.

Perhaps Defendants could have been more timely in their response. Perhaps Plaintiff could have served everything as indicated by the Court's order. Regardless, Plaintiff was not prejudiced by Defendants' failure to respond on the due date except insofar as they did not ultimately obtain the admissions they desired. That is not enough to warrant relief. Plaintiff demonstrated a willingness to waive their objection to the manner of service so long as the response to the request for admissions was accepted. Clearly, some sort of administrative oversight occurred and, somehow, the requests for admissions did not make their way into the queue of work to be done within the thirty day period, whoever was to undertake those efforts on behalf of Defendants. That is forgiveable. Plaintiff's objection is not because it or Plaintiff's counsel would be somehow prejudiced or, for that matter, inconvenienced by the seven extra days it took for Plaintiff to respond because of the communication issue. The reality is that Plaintiff decided it would not forgive the lateness because it did not like Defendants' responses when they declined to admit what Plaintiff had requested - which is too coy by far. Accordingly, the Court will permit the withdrawal of the deemed admissions and, further, will deem the responses made by Defendants timely.

The court, then considers, what this means for Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and the answer is clear: it is fatal to the Motion as explained below.

II. Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Applicable Standards of Review: the Burdens of Proof and Persuasion for a Motion for Summary Judgment

The standard for summary judgment mirrors the standard for directed verdict. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). A grant of summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

The moving party bears the initial burden to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once that burden is met, the nonmoving party must "come forward with some probative evidence to support its claim." Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994). A material fact is one that may affect the outcome of the issue at trial, as determined by substantive law. See Niemi v. NHK Spring Co., Ltd., 543 F.3d 294, 298 (6th Cir. 2008). There is a genuine dispute as to a material fact if the evidence shows "that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 885 (6th Cir. 2004).

The judge's function is not to weigh the evidence, but to decide whether there are genuine issues for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Multimedia 2000, Inc. v. Attard, 374 F.3d 377, 380 (6th Cir. 2004). The evidence should be construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party when deciding whether there is enough ...

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