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Garrett's Worldwide Enterprises, LLC v. United States

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 12, 2014

GARRETT'S WORLDWIDE ENTERPRISES, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KAREN M. HUMPHREYS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendants' amended motion to stay discovery (Doc. 22).[1] For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be GRANTED.

Background[2]

Plaintiff Garrett's Worldwide Enterprises, LLC ("GWE") and its president, Eric Garrett, are engaged in the sales of consumer fireworks throughout the midwestern and southeastern United States. Through the Department of Transportation, the defendant Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ("PHMSA") regulates the transportation of explosive materials into and throughout the United States. Highly summarized, plaintiffs claim that the PHMSA, through its agents Terry Pollard, Theodore Turner, III and Edward Rastetter, initiated a series of unjustified and financially devastating investigations of GWE's business operations. Plaintiffs believe the investigations occurred in retaliation for GWE's open criticism of PHMSA's permitting process. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA")[3] plaintiffs assert state law claims of entrapment, negligence, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unlawful search. Plaintiffs also make Bivens [4] claims against the individual defendants for violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Defendants deny any improper investigation of GWE and contend that this lawsuit was filed only because plaintiffs disagree with the penalties imposed against them for transporting unapproved fireworks.

Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 22)

The combined defendants have filed a motion (Doc. 20) seeking dismissal based on "numerous and substantial deficits in plaintiff's claims" including, in part, that the claims are barred by sovereign immunity.[5] Defendants now request a stay of discovery pending resolution of the fully-dispositive motion. Plaintiff opposes a stay, arguing that stays are rarely granted in this district and defendants would not be unduly prejudiced by proceeding while the motion to dismiss is pending.

Alternatively, defendants contend that the case should be stayed because the matter is likely to be concluded as a result of the pending dispositive motion, which plaintiff disputes. At this juncture, the court declines to express any opinion concerning the merits of the parties' claims or defenses because they are matters to be determined by the assigned district judge. But more importantly in this matter, where immunity is at issue, plaintiff fails to address why the court should not follow its precedent to stay discovery.

A decision on whether to stay discovery rests in the sound discretion of the court.[6] Although the general policy of this district is to proceed with discovery despite pending dispositive motions, [7] there are recognized exceptions to this general rule. Most notable is the well-established exception when the party requesting stay has asserted absolute or qualified immunity through a dispositive motion.[8] A line of cases from both the United States Supreme Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals validates this exception.[9] As stated by the Tenth Circuit in Workman v. Jordan , "[d]iscovery should not be allowed until the court resolves the threshold question" of immunity.[10]

Therefore, when immunity is asserted by dispositive motion, a stay of discovery is appropriate pending a ruling on the immunity issue. Here, discovery has not commenced and a Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b) scheduling conference has not been held. Applying these standards, the court finds a stay of all proceedings in this matter is legally appropriate and economical in terms of time and effort for the court, counsel, and the litigants.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendants' amended motion to stay discovery (Doc. 22) is GRANTED. All discovery and scheduling deadlines are therefore stayed pending further order of the court.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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