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Gale v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 21, 2019

JAMIE GALE, et al., Plaintiffs,


          Teresa J. James, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Mentor Worldwide LLC's Motion to Stay Discovery and Other Rule 26 Activities (ECF No. 28). Defendants requests an order staying discovery and all other Rule 26 activities until its Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 10) is resolved. Plaintiffs oppose the relief requested. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Motion to Stay Discovery should be granted.

         I. Nature of the Matter Before the Court

         Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit seeking damages for injuries they incurred after each was implanted with Mentor MemoryGel silicone breast implants. Plaintiffs assert claims for negligent failure to warn and negligent manufacturing, and for failure to warn and manufacturing defect sounding in strict product liability.[1]

         Defendant responded to Plaintiffs' complaint with a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10), which Plaintiffs oppose.[2] During the May 30, 2019 Status Conference the Court conducted in lieu of a Rule 16 Scheduling Conference, the Court discussed with counsel issues relevant to the preemption argument Defendant advances in its Motion to Dismiss and the impact on discovery issues. Defendant indicated its desire for a stay of discovery, and the Court set a deadline to file a motion to stay and an abbreviated briefing schedule.[3]

         Defendant's motion to dismiss is fully briefed and ready for ruling.[4] In the instant motion, Defendant asserts all discovery should be stayed pending Judge Vratil's ruling on the motion to dismiss because Plaintiffs' claims are expressly or impliedly preempted by the Medical Device Amendments, 21 U.S.C. §§ 360 et seq., to the federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.

         II. Legal Standard for Motion to Stay Discovery

         The decision to stay discovery and other pretrial proceedings is firmly vested in the sound discretion of the trial court.[5] The Tenth Circuit, however, has held that “the right to proceed in court should not be denied except under the most extreme circumstances.”[6] Therefore, as a general rule, the District of Kansas does not favor staying pretrial proceedings even though dispositive motions are pending.[7] A stay is not favored because it can delay a timely resolution of the matter.[8]

Although, upon a showing of good cause, the court may . . . stay or limit the scope of discovery to protect a party from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense, bare assertions that discovery will be unduly burdensome or that it should be stayed because pending dispositive motions will probably be sustained, are insufficient to justify the entry of an order staying discovery generally.[9]

         However, a stay pending a ruling on a dispositive motion is appropriate where the case is likely to be finally concluded as a result of the ruling, where the facts sought through the remaining discovery would not affect the ruling on the pending motion, or where discovery on all issues in the case would be wasteful and burdensome.[10]

         A stay may also be appropriate when the party requesting it has filed a dispositive motion asserting absolute or qualified immunity.[11] In that instance, a defendant is entitled to have the question of immunity resolved before being required to engage in discovery and other pretrial proceedings.[12] Qualified immunity “spare[s] a defendant not only unwarranted liability, but unwarranted demands customarily imposed upon those defending a long drawn out lawsuit.”[13]Further, it is “an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability[, ] and like an absolute immunity, it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.”[14]

         A party seeking a stay of discovery has the burden to clearly show a compelling reason for the court to issue a stay.[15]

         III. Application of the Standard to this Case

         Although Defendant's overarching argument is that its motion to dismiss is likely to be granted because Plaintiffs' claims are preempted, it first equates preemption with immunity and argues a stay is warranted under the applicable legal principles recited above. The Court rejects Defendant's argument. Immunity addresses whether a governmental official is amenable to suit. The reason a defendant who asserts immunity is temporarily relieved of the burdens of discovery is “not limited to liability for money damages; [it] also include[s avoiding] ‘the general costs of subjecting officials to the risks of trial-distraction of officials from their governmental duties, inhibition of discretionary action, and ...

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