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CRST Expedited, Inc. v. Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

August 17, 2018

CRST EXPEDITED, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CO. OF ARIZONA, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          C. J. WILLIAMS CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. Motions to Stay and for a Protective Order ................................................ 4

         A. Applicable Law ............................................................................... 5

         B. Discussion of Motion to Stay .............................................................. 6

         1. Undue Prejudice or Clear Tactical Disadvantage to Non-Movant ................. 6

         2. Whether a Stay Will Simplify the Issues ............................................... 8

         a. Intentional Interference with Contract ............................................. 9

         b. Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage and Unjust Enrichment ................................................................... 12

         3. Discovery and Trial Date .............................................................. 13

         4. Consideration of All Factors Together ............................................... 14

         C. Motion for a Protective Order ........................................................... 16

         II. Motion for Reconsideration ................................................................ 16

         III. Motion to Strike and Modification of Scheduling Order .............................. 20

         A. Motion to Strike ............................................................................. 20

         1. Applicable Law ........................................................................... 21

         2. Discussion ................................................................................. 21

         B. Scheduling Order ........................................................................... 24

         IV. Conclusion ..................................................................................... 26

         This matter is before the Court on a number of motions: 1) defendant's Motion to Strike Expert Disclosure and Bar Testimony (Doc. 68); 2) defendant's Rule 16 Motion for a Pretrial/Scheduling Conference to Address Discovery and Depositions (Doc. 72); 3) plaintiff's Motion to Stay (Doc. 77); and 4) plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order (Doc. 78). Plaintiff timely filed resistances to defendant's motion to strike (Doc. 76), and to defendant's motion for a scheduling conference. (Doc. 79). Defendant timely filed a reply in support of its motion to strike (Doc. 83), and timely filed a combined resistance to plaintiff's motion to stay and motion for protective order. (Doc. 80). Plaintiff timely filed a combined reply in support of its motions to stay and for a protective order. (Doc. 84). In its motion for a scheduling conference, defendant also made a motion for reconsideration of the Court's Order docketed at docket number 70. (Doc. 72, at 8-10). The Court will construe defendant's embedded motion for reconsideration as a formal motion for reconsideration. Because this motion was included in the motion for a scheduling conference, plaintiff's resistance is included in its resistance to the motion for a scheduling conference. (Doc. 79, at 7-8).

         Plaintiff filed a Supplement Regarding Motion for Protective Order on August 16, 2018, in which plaintiff renewed its request for a protective order. (Doc. 85). As the supplement merely provides an update to the Court as to the status of discovery, the Court has considered the supplement.

         On August 6, 2018, the Court heard argument on all pending motions. Therefore, the portion of defendant's Rule 16 Motion for a Pretrial/Scheduling Conference to Address Discovery and Depositions (Doc. 72) that sought a hearing should be considered granted. For the following reasons, defendant's Motion to Strike Expert Disclosure and Bar Testimony (Doc. 68) is denied; defendant's motion for reconsideration (Doc. 72, at 8-10) is granted in part and denied in part; plaintiff's Motion to Stay (Doc. 77) is denied; and plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order (Doc. 78) is denied.

         The Court notes that two motions to compel are also pending. (Docs. 61, 81). This Order, however, does not address either motion. The parties advised that they were attempting to reach a compromise on the issues presented in defendant's motion to compel (Doc. 61) and therefore requested that the Court not rule on the motion until after the parties have had an opportunity to confer in an attempt to reach an agreement. The Court finds it appropriate to hold defendant's motion to compel (Doc. 61) in abeyance, to the extent the Court has not already ruled on the motion. (see Doc. 67). Defendant is directed to inform the Court by August 31, 2018, as to the status of the parties' meet and confer attempts. Specifically, defendant is to inform the Court of whether a complete agreement has been reached such that the motion is moot. If the parties are unable to reach a complete agreement, defendant is directed to inform the Court and, further, is directed to inform the Court as to whether and how the scope of the motion has been narrowed. The Court does not need information regarding the specifics of the parties' negotiations, aside from the information set forth supra. Plaintiff's motion to compel (Doc. 81) is not ripe, and the Court will not presently consider the motion.

         Rather than addressing the motions in the order in which they were filed, the Court will first consider the motion to stay and the motion for a protective order, together, before considering defendant's motion for reconsideration. The Court will then consider defendant's motion to strike simultaneously with discussing the deadlines governing this case. Further, because the pending motions do not share a common factual background that is relevant to all motions, the Court will provide a separate factual summary in its discussion of each motion rather than provide a single overarching background section for all of the motions, together.

         I. MOTIONS TO STAY AND FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER

         The alleged factual background that led plaintiff to bring this lawsuit is largely immaterial to the present motions. In sum, both plaintiff and defendant are trucking companies that hire drivers. (Doc. 43, at 2-4). Plaintiff alleges that defendant has wrongfully poached, and continues to poach, plaintiff's drivers, even though the drivers were allegedly under contract with plaintiff and had signed a non-competition agreement with plaintiff. (Id., at 4-5). The parties disagree as to whether the contracts are valid and enforceable agreements.

         It is noteworthy that this case is one of four related cases, [1] each of which is based on the same basic set of factual allegations and causes of action. On July 31, 2018, this Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant in one of the related cases, CRST Expedited, Inc. v. TransAm Trucking, Inc. (hereinafter “TransAm”). No. C16-52-LTS, 2018 WL 3738017 (N.D. Iowa July 31, 2018). The TransAm plaintiff[2] immediately filed a notice of appeal of the TransAm decision. (TransAm, No. 16-CV-52-LTS, Doc. 195). The following day, plaintiff in the instant case moved to stay the instant case during the pendency of the TransAm appeal. (CRST Expedited, Inc. v. Swift Transp. Co., 17-CV-25-CJW (hereinafter “Swift”), (Doc. 77).

         In support of its motion to stay, plaintiff argues that “[b]ecause the issues in this case are identical to those in TransAm, the merits of [plaintiff's] claims will be addressed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in adjudicating its appeal of this Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of TransAm.” (Doc. 77-1, at 3-4). Further, plaintiff filed its motion for a protective order contemporaneously with its motion to stay and requested expedited relief on its motion for a protective order. (Doc. 78). Plaintiff seeks “a protective order specifying that all [plaintiff] witness depositions be postponed until its Motion to Stay is decided.” (Doc. 78, at 2). Thus, the motion for a protective order is tied to the motion to stay.

         In response, defendant argues that staying this case “will prejudice [defendant] and improperly delay final adjudication of this case.” (Doc. 80, at 3). Further, defendant argues that staying this case will not conserve judicial resources because although defendant may argue some issues that were considered in the TransAm decision, defendant also intends to make additional arguments that will result in a summary judgment in favor of defendant. As such, defendant asserts that staying this case until such time as the Eighth Circuit rules on the appeal will not result in any benefit-to the Court or the parties-because, defendant argues, this Court will be able to grant defendant's motion for summary judgment on different bases than will be considered by the Eighth Circuit in TransAm. In response to plaintiff's motion for a protective order, defendant argues that the depositions sought to be postponed were properly noticed and, further, that plaintiff has not met its “heavy burden” of showing that a protective order is warranted. (Doc. 80, at 8, 11-13).

         Despite plaintiff's arguments to the contrary, the Court finds that a stay is not warranted in this case, and plaintiff's motion to stay is therefore denied. As the protective order sought is intended to cover only those depositions that had been noticed for the time period between when plaintiff filed its motion to stay and this Court's Order on the motion to stay, plaintiff's motion for a protective order is denied as moot. The motion for a protective order will be discussed in greater depth infra.

         A. Applicable Law

         In determining whether to stay a case, courts generally consider the following factors: 1) whether a stay would unduly prejudice or present a clear tactical disadvantage to the non-moving party; 2) whether a stay will simplify the issues in question and trial of the case; and 3) whether discovery is complete and whether a trial date has been set. Dordt College v. Burwell, No. C 13-4100-MWB, 2014 WL 5454649, at *1 (N.D. Iowa Oct. 27, 2014) (citation omitted). Although the parties and issues presented in a case sought to be stayed need not be identical to the parties and issues in a proceeding that prompted the motion to stay, a court has the inherent power to stay proceedings “to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort[, ] for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). In determining whether to stay an action, a court must exercise its judgment and “weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance.” Id. (citations omitted). The party seeking a stay bears the burden of persuasion in showing that a stay is appropriate. New York Times Co. v. Jascalevich, 439 U.S. 1304, 1305 (1978).

         B. Discussion of Motion to Stay

         1. Undue Prejudice or Clear Tactical ...


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