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Williams v. Bnsf Railway Co.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 19, 2014

JAMES E. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' failure to show good cause as to why this action should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution. In addition, it is before the Court on Plaintiff's failure to respond to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19) and failure to respond to Defendant's Motion to Enforce Settlement (Doc. 40). For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses the case, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), for Plaintiff's failure to prosecute or to comply with the rules of procedure and the Court's orders.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On March 18, 2013, Plaintiff James E. Williams filed this lawsuit, proceeding pro se. On December 23, 2013, Defendant BNSF Railway Company ("BNSF" or "Defendant") filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Compel Plaintiff's Appearance at Deposition and for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Doc. 19) because Plaintiff failed to appear at his scheduled deposition. A settlement conference occurred on January 3, 2014, but the case did not settle.

On February 7, 2014, James Tippin entered his appearance on behalf of Plaintiff. At a status conference, three days later, counsel for the both parties advised the Court that settlement had been reached and that the material terms had been agreed upon by the parties. The Court told the parties that if the case was not resolved by March 10, 2014, it would enter a show cause order requiring them to demonstrate why the case should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution or proceed with a final pretrial conference (Doc. 27). On February 11, 2014, Plaintiff moved for an extension of time to respond to Defendant's pending Motion to Dismiss. In that document, Plaintiff's counsel indicated that the material terms for a settlement had been reached but several issues remained (Doc. 28). Plaintiff's counsel stated that he anticipated that the remaining issues would be clarified shortly. The Court granted Plaintiff's request for an extension of time (Doc. 29).

On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff's counsel filed another motion to extend the time to respond to Defendant's Motion asserting that he anticipated that the draft settlement documents would be finalized shortly (Doc. 30). The Court again granted Plaintiff's request for an extension of time (Doc. 31).

On March 10, 2014, the parties informed Magistrate Judge James that the case had settled and that they anticipated filing a Stipulation of Dismissal within ten days. Four days later, on March 14, 2014, Plaintiff's counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Attorney for Plaintiff (Doc. 32). The Court denied this motion without prejudice on procedural grounds (Doc. 33). Plaintiff then sought another extension of time to respond to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 34), which the Court granted and set the deadline of March 28, 2014 (Doc. 35).

Plaintiff's counsel filed an amended Motion to Withdraw as Attorney (Doc. 36). In this document, Plaintiff's counsel states that after working towards settling the case, his client stopped communicating with him. Defendant responded to the amended motion, but the response was untimely. In this response, Defendant did not oppose Plaintiff's counsel's withdrawal, but Defendant requested that the Court retain jurisdiction over the case so that it could file a motion to enforce settlement.

On April 4, 2014, the Court granted the Motion to Withdraw as Attorney, finding that the facts in the case warranted withdrawal (Doc. 39). Noting that the deadline to respond to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss had expired, and to alleviate any potential prejudice to Plaintiff, the Court stated that if Plaintiff opposed the Motion to Dismiss, he must file a motion for extension of time on or before April 18, 2014. The Court also noted that no further extensions would be granted with respect to this motion.

In the same Order granting Plaintiff's counsel's Motion to Withdraw, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause. The Show Cause Order required the parties to show good cause as to why the case should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution or re-set for final pretrial conference. The Court noted that the parties could avoid these deadlines if they finalized the settlement and filed a joint stipulation of dismissal on or before April 18, 2014.

Plaintiff did not file a motion for an extension of time to respond to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss by April 18, 2014. The parties also did not file a joint stipulation of dismissal. Defendant filed, however, a Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement (Doc. 40). In that motion, Defendant asserts that the Court should enforce the settlement agreement between the parties because all material terms of the settlement agreement had been agreed upon. Plaintiff failed to file a response to Defendant's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. Thus, there are currently two unopposed motions before this Court: Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Compel Plaintiff's Appearance at Deposition and for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Doc. 19) and Defendant's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement (Doc. 40). The Court will first address Defendant's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement and then the Motion to Dismiss.

II. Analysis

A. Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement (Doc. 40)

On April 18, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement asserting that the Court should enforce the settlement agreement between the parties because all the material terms had been agreed upon. Defendant claims that it reached this agreement with Plaintiff's counsel and Plaintiff's apparent "change of heart" is an insufficient basis to avoid the ...


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