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Allen v. United Services Automobile Association

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 16, 2016

JEFFREY ALLEN, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED SERVICES AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION, a Texas corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STAY

          Nina Y. Wang United States Magistrate Judge.

         This action is before the court on Plaintiff Jeffrey Allen's “Motion to Stay Pending Ruling on Certified Questions in Parallel Case” (“Motion to Stay”). [#22, filed August 3, 2016]. The Motion to Stay was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to the Order Referring Case dated June 22, 2016 [#11] and the memorandum dated October 24, 2016 [#29]. Upon review and consideration of the Motion, the accompanying briefs, the entire case file, and the applicable law, this court ORDERS that the Motion to Stay is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Allen commenced this civil action on May 9, 2016 by filing a Class Action Complaint against Defendant United Services Automobile Association (“Defendant” or “USAA”) alleging that USAA “represents that its coverage will cover accident-related injuries but fails to disclose to its insureds a time limitation on medical payments coverage under their Colorado medical payment coverages, ” in violation of Colorado Revised Statute § 10-4-635 (“Med-Pay statute”). [#1 at ¶ 2]. The action is brought on behalf of all insureds of USAA who have incurred damages including but not limited to loss of benefits associated with coverage for medical payments (“Med-Pay”). The class consists of two subclasses: those “who suffered injuries in a covered automobile accident, and whose claims did not exceed $5, 000 or the dollar amount of Med-Pay coverage provided in the policy, whichever is greater” (the “Denied and Deterred Claims Subclass”); and those “whose policies remain in effect, or will become effective, during and/or after the pendency of this litigation, or who are members of the Denied and Deterred Claims Subclass” (the “Injunction Subclass”). [#1 at 12-13]. Plaintiff asserts the following five claims for relief: (1) Deceptive Trade Practices-Violation of C.R.S. § 6-1-105(1) (Plaintiff and All Subclasses); (2) Bad Faith Breach of Insurance Contract (Denied and Deterred Claims Subclass); (3) Violation of C.R.S. § 10-3-1115 (Denied and Deterred Claims Subclass); (4) Declaratory Relief (Injunction Subclass); and (5) Breach of Contract (Denied and Deterred Claims Subclass). Plaintiff invokes federal diversity jurisdiction pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d).

         Upon Defendant's unopposed motion, the court continued the Scheduling Conference originally set for July 14, 2016 to August 5, 2016. See [#14; 16]. On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Stay, on the basis that another court in this District has certified questions regarding the legality of Med-Pay time limits directly to the Colorado Supreme Court in a case he contends is parallel to this one, Nguyen v. American Family Mutual Ins. Co., No. 15-CV-00639-WJM-KLM [ECF No. 52] (D. Colo. Oct. 8, 2015). See [#22]. At the Scheduling Conference, this court discussed the Motion to Stay with the Parties, set a second Scheduling Conference, and ordered the Parties to file a status report on or before October 4, 2016. [#23]. The Parties briefed the Motion to Stay, see [#24; #25], and USAA filed an Answer on September 26, 2016. [#26].

         The Parties timely submitted their Joint Status Report advising that the Colorado Supreme Court had not yet ruled on whether to accept the certified questions in Nguyen. [#27]. Plaintiff restated his position that the court should stay the entire case pending a ruling from the Supreme Court, but conceded that discovery should commence if the court permits USAA to file an early dispositive motion. [Id.] USAA communicated its intention to file an early motion for summary judgment as to Mr. Allen's claims, as well as its position that the motion does not require the Parties to engage in discovery. Nonetheless, USAA did not object to the Parties commencing non-class discovery of Mr. Allen's claims, to the extent Plaintiff believes such discovery is necessary. [Id.] The Parties represented they would file a proposed scheduling order in advance of the second Scheduling Conference. [Id.]

         The Parties did not submit a proposed scheduling order and this court converted the October 11, 2016 Scheduling Conference into a Status Conference, at which the undersigned further discussed with the Parties the Motion to Stay and the need for a pre-trial schedule. See [#28]. During that October 11 Status Conference, this court set another Scheduling Conference to be held December 16, 2016. Thereafter, on October 24, 2016, the presiding judge, the Honorable Raymond P. Moore, referred the Motion to Stay to the undersigned. See [#29]. On December 13, 2016, USAA filed the Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking entry of summary judgment on Mr. Allen's claims. See [#30].

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff characterizes the theories of liability in this lawsuit as follows: the one-year time limit on Med-Pay coverage imposed in USAA's automobile insurance policies is void because it violates Colorado's statutory requirements for coverage of all medical expenses; and USAA failed to disclose the time limit as required by Colorado law. [#22 at 1]. Plaintiff contends that a stay of this action is appropriate because the questions the Honorable William J. Martinez certified to the Colorado Supreme Court in Nguyen would allow the Court to clarify the law underlying the claims advanced here. [Id. at 3].

         USAA does not oppose a stay of discovery at this stage, but objects to a stay of the case in its entirety on the basis that a ruling in Nguyen would have no impact on its Motion for Summary Judgment. [Id. at 1]; see [#24]. USAA argues that even if the Colorado Supreme Court accepts the questions for certification, the only question relevant to Mr. Allen's claims is whether Colorado law prohibits insurers from imposing a time limit on Med-Pay coverage. [#24 at 1]. USAA contends that this question has been resolved in its favor “by every state and federal court to have addressed the issue, and there is no reason to believe the Colorado Supreme Court will diverge from these holdings.” [Id. at 1-2 (emphasis omitted)].

         I. Applicable Law

         Whether to stay discovery is a matter left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Wang v. Hsu, 919 F.2d 130, 130 (10th Cir. 1990). Although courts in this District generally disfavor the stay of all discovery, see Wason Ranch Corporation v. Hecla Mining Co., No. 07-cv-00267- EWN-MEH, 2007 WL 1655362, at *1 (D. Colo. June 6, 2007), such a stay may be appropriate pending the resolution of a dispositive motion. Ellis v. J.R.'s County Stores, Inc., 12-cv-01916- CMA-KLM, 2012 WL 6153513, at *1 (D. Colo. Dec. 11, 2012). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) (authorizing the court to issue, for good cause shown, “an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly provide for a stay of proceedings, however the power to stay “is incidental to the power inherent in every court 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, 254-55 (1936) (citing Kansas City S. Ry. Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 760, 763 (1931)).

         In determining whether a stay is appropriate, the court weighs interests such as whether defendants are likely to prevail in the civil action, whether defendants will suffer irreparable harm, whether the stay will cause substantial harm to other parties to the proceeding, and the public interests at stake. United Steelworkers of Am. v. Oregon Steel Mills, Inc., 322 F.3d 1222, 1227 (10th Cir. 2003). The court may also consider plaintiff's interests in proceeding expeditiously with the civil action and the potential prejudice to plaintiff of a delay, the burden on the defendants, and the convenience to the court. String Cheese Incident, LLC v. Stylus Shows, Inc., No. 1:02-CV-01934-LTB-PA, 2006 WL 894955, at *2 (D. Colo. Mar. 30, 2006) (citing FDIC v. Renda, No. 85-2216-O, 1987 WL 348635, at *2 (D. Kan. Aug. 6, 1987)). “[W]hen one issue may be determinative of a case, the court has discretion to stay discovery on other issues until the critical issue has been decided.” Ellis, 2012 WL 6153513, at *1 (quoting 8 Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 2040, at 521-22 (2d ed.1994)) (further citations omitted). See also Chavous v. D.C. Fin. Responsibility & Mgmt. Assistance Auth., 201 F.R.D. 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2001) (“A stay of discovery pending the determination of a dispositive motion is an eminently logical means to prevent wasting the time and effort of all concerned, and to make the most efficient use of judicial resources.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         II. ...


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