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Owners Insurance Co. v. Stahl

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 14, 2019

OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY, an Ohio corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES STAHL, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING MAY 30, 2019 AND OCTOBER 17, 2019 ORDERS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Christine M. Arguello United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon the May 30, 2019 (Doc. # 111) and October 17, 2019 (Doc. # 135) Orders by Magistrate Judge Crews, which granted Plaintiff's Motions to Strike Defendant's expert disclosures from April 30, 2019 (Doc. # 107), and July 1, 2019 (Doc. # 118), respectively. Defendant Mr. James Stahl filed Objections to these Orders on June 13, 2019 (Doc. # 114), and October 31, 2019 (Doc. # 140). For the reasons that follow, the Court overrules Defendant's Objections and affirms the Orders.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. CAR ACCIDENT AND RESULTING INSURANCE CLAIMS

         In October of 2016, Defendant Mr. James Stahl (“Stahl”), and Ms. Karen Zohar, a third party, were involved in a car accident in Colorado on I-70 West. Ms. Zohar was driving her personal vehicle and she carried $50, 000 in bodily injury liability coverage. Stahl was driving a work vehicle that was insured by Plaintiff Owners Insurance Company (“Owners”) with a $1, 000, 000 underinsured motorist policy. After the accident, both vehicles pulled to the side of the road. Neither party called the police nor requested an ambulance, and no accident report was filed. Other than minor paint scratches, there was no damage to the vehicles.

         Eleven days after the accident, Stahl sought medical treatment for pain in his neck. (Doc. # 130 at 13.) Stahl's x-rays showed chronic degenerative changes to the C5-6 and C6-7 parts of his spine, and he eventually had surgery in March 2017 to correct this. (Id. at 14.) Stahl claims that his neck surgery and permanent spinal injuries were caused by the collision with Ms. Zohar. (Doc. # 88 at 3.)

         Eventually, Ms. Zohar admitted liability for the accident and her insurance paid Stahl the maximum amount allowed under her policy: $50, 000. After calculating his total losses as a result of the collision at $875, 000, Stahl submitted a claim to Owners for $825, 000-the outstanding amount not covered by Ms. Zohar's policy. On January 29, 2017, Owners told Stahl that his claim was denied. Owners then initiated the instant case, seeking a declaratory judgment that Stahl was not entitled to receive underinsured motorists benefits.

         B. MAGISTRATE CREWS' ORDERS STRIKING EXPERT DISCLOSURES

         1. May 30, 2019 Order

         On June 13, 2018, Magistrate Judge Crews set November 14, 2018 as the deadline for the disclosure of affirmative experts. (Doc. # 34.) Because of a motion by Stahl on October 29, 2018 (Doc. # 62), the court extended the deadline for disclosure of affirmative experts to January 28, 2019 (Doc. # 64). On January 25, 2019, Stahl again requested an extension of all remaining deadlines, including expert deadlines. (Doc. # 70). Because Magistrate Judge Crews concluded that Stahl had not demonstrated good cause for extending any of the deadlines, the court denied the motion. (Doc. # 80.) Stahl did not disclose any experts by the deadline.

         On March 7, 2019, after conducting additional discovery, Owners amended its Complaint to include a claim that Stahl negligently caused the accident with Ms. Zohar, and therefore, was not entitled to any benefits under Owners' insurance policy. On April 16, 2019, at a status conference to discuss what additional discovery was necessary as a result of the amendment, Stahl proposed to significantly expand discovery. (Doc. # 111 at 3.) Magistrate Judge Crews interpreted Stahl's proposal as an attempt to circumvent his prior denial of Stahl's deadline extension request. (Id. at 3-4.) The court expressed that any additional discovery should be limited to the narrow issue of accident causation raised by Owners' Amended Complaint. Both parties submitted discovery briefs on April 30, 2019.

         On the same day, more than ninety days past the expert disclosure deadline, Stahl served Owners with his Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(2) expert disclosures and reports, which opined on a wide range of issues, including those that had been at issue since the beginning of the case. This was done in the absence of a court order allowing additional expert disclosures and without Stahl first seeking leave of the court to make the designations. (Doc. # 111 at 4.) Owners moved to exclude these experts (Doc. # 107), and the court granted Owners' motion (Doc. # 111). Stahl timely appealed that Order. (Doc. # 114.)

         However, Magistrate Judge Crews issued a Discovery Order on May 31, 2019 allowing Stahl to designate one rebuttal expert to testify on the limited issue of whether Ms. Zohar or Stahl caused the accident. (Doc. # 113.)

         2. October ...


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