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Stelton v. Stelton

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

June 3, 2013

CAROL VAN STELTON, VIRGIL VAN STELTON and ALVIN VAN STELTON, Plaintiffs,
v.
JERRY VAN STELTON, DONNA VAN STELTON, EUGENE VAN STELTON, GARY CHRISTIANS, DOUG WEBER, SCOTT GRIES, NATE KRIKKE, ROBERT E. HANSEN, DANIEL DEKOTER, OSCEOLA COUNTY, IOWA, AND OTHER UNIDENTIFIED PERSONS AND ENTITIES, Defendants.

ORDER

LEONARD T. STRAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

All of the defendants have filed motions (Doc. Nos. 91, 92 and 93) to strike plaintiffs’ disclosure of expert witnesses in this case. The plaintiffs have filed a resistance (Doc. No. 94) and have requested oral argument. Having reviewed the parties’ filings, I conclude that oral argument is not necessary and, further, that I need not await reply briefing from the defendants. See Local Rules 7(c), 7(g). For the reasons explained below, I will grant the motions to strike based on plaintiffs’ blatant and unjustified noncompliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed this case on May 11, 2011. Their original complaint (Doc. No. 1) was filed pro se and included the following counts: (a) a claim by all plaintiffs for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (b) claims by plaintiff Virgil Van Stelton for false arrest, malicious prosecution and loss of consortium, (c) claims by Virgil Van Stelton and Alvin Van Stelton for intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander and “Interference with Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances.” The complaint’s factual allegations were somewhat convoluted but generally indicated that a family inheritance dispute forms the background for a series of events that culminated in Virgil Van Stelton’s arrest on May 11, 2009. In particular, plaintiffs Virgil Van Stelton and Alvin Van Stelton are brothers of defendants Jerry Van Stelton and Eugene Van Stelton and will sometimes be referred to collectively herein as the “Van Stelton brothers.” The Van Stelton brothers are engaged in separate litigation concerning their now-deceased father’s estate and/or trust.

Plaintiffs sought, and obtained, an extension of their deadline for serving the summons and complaint. They then filed an amended complaint (Doc. No. 6) on January 6, 2012. The amended complaint was similar to the original but added plaintiff Carol Van Stelton as a claimant with regard to the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium and slander (renamed to “Slander and Libel”).

The named defendants filed answers (Doc. Nos. 8, 9 and 14) and the parties then submitted a proposed scheduling order and discovery plan, which the court adopted and entered (Doc. No. 19) on March 12, 2012. Trial was scheduled to begin June 3, 2013 (Doc. No. 20).

In response to a motion by plaintiffs (Doc. No. 25) to extend deadlines, Judge Zoss entered an order (Doc. No. 26) setting a scheduling conference on July 30, 2012. Before the conference, two attorneys filed appearances (Doc. Nos. 27, 28) for plaintiffs. After the conference, I entered a new scheduling order and discovery plan (Doc. No. 32) that, among other things, established October 1, 2012, as the deadline for adding parties and amending pleadings. Because of the new scheduling order, trial was rescheduled for September 23, 2013 (Doc. No. 33).

Plaintiffs, now acting through counsel, filed a motion (Doc. No. 41) for leave to file a second amended complaint on October 1, 2012. I granted that motion on November 9, 2012. The second amended complaint significantly expanded on the factual allegations contained in the prior complaints and added a new party (the City of Sibley, Iowa). The new complaint contained the following causes of action, with each count having a unique combination of plaintiffs and defendants:

1. Civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
2. Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act
3. False arrest 4. Malicious prosecution
5. Slander and libel
6. Tortious interference with prospective economic advantage
7. Declaratory judgment and injunctive relief

Doc. No. 41-1. In very general terms, the second amended complaint alleged a conspiracy in which defendant Hansen, as the Osceola County Attorney, and defendant Weber, as the Osceola County Sheriff, abuse their powers and official positions to reward friends and punish adversaries. Plaintiffs allege that defendant DeKoter, an attorney in private practice, is part of the favored group and, therefore, is able to employ the alleged conspiracy to benefit himself and his clients. According to the plaintiffs, DeKoter’s clients include, or have included, defendants Jerry Van Stelton and Eugene Van Stelton, as well as the trust established by the father of the Van Stelton brothers.

Plaintiffs further contend that DeKoter has used his relationship with the alleged Hansen-Weber conspiracy to cause actions that benefit the trust, and the Van Stelton defendants, while causing harm to the Van Stelton plaintiffs. For example, plaintiffs allege that DeKoter “encouraged the [Van Stelton defendants] to provoke incidents and make false reports” to Weber that led to plaintiff Virgil Van Stelton’s arrest on May 11, 2009. Plaintiffs contend that Virgil Van Stelton was charged with Trespass and Assault Causing Bodily Injury but that all charges were later dismissed.

The second amended complaint also included sweeping allegations concerning the “Unified Law, ” which is described as the mechanism through which Osceola County funds governmental operations. Plaintiffs allege that the defendants are involved in a conspiracy to provide a disproportionate level of funding to the City of Sibley and that this alleged scheme somehow benefits certain of the individual defendants. Plaintiffs contend that they associate with a citizen’s organization that opposes the alleged scheme and that this association provides additional motivation for the defendants to take illegal actions against them.

When I permitted plaintiffs to file the second amended complaint, I also granted their motion (Doc. No. 40) to extend pretrial deadlines. I vacated the existing scheduling order, continued the September 23, 2013, trial date, and ordered the parties to submit a proposed new scheduling order and discovery plan. I reviewed, approved and filed the scheduling order (Doc. No. 56) on November 26, 2012. Based on the new schedule, Judge Bennett then rescheduled trial for February 10, 2014.

Some defendants filed answers (Doc. Nos. 57 and 58) to the second amended complaint. Others filed motions (Doc. Nos. 59 and 60) to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Those motions are pending. Meanwhile, and in direct response to arguments raised in the motions to dismiss, plaintiffs filed a motion (Doc. No. 64) for leave to file a third amended complaint. The proposed third amended complaint sought to cure certain deficiencies described in the motions to dismiss. Although the motion to amend was resisted, I granted it on January 3, 2013, and directed the defendants with pending motions to dismiss to file supplemental briefing to address how, if at all, the revised allegations impact their arguments.

THE CURRENT DISPUTE

The November 26, 2012, scheduling order, adopted as jointly-proposed by the parties, included a deadline of February 1, 2013, for plaintiffs to disclose expert witnesses. Plaintiffs did not move to extend that deadline. Indeed, and in violation of this court’s rules, [1] they filed a “disclosure of expert witnesses” (Doc. No. 79) on February 2, 2013. While defendants did not move to strike that document, they did file unresisted motions (Doc. Nos. 87, 88 and 89) to extend their expert disclosure deadline. The motions pointed out that plaintiffs’ expert disclosure did not contain the information required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2), thus impairing defendants’ ability to make decisions about their own ...


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