770 F.3d 724 (8th Cir. 2014), 13-3512, Mullen v. Heinkel Filtering Sys., Inc.
|Docket Nº:||13-3512, 13-3513|
|Citation:||770 F.3d 724|
|Opinion Judge:||WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||Bill Mullen, Michelle Mullen, Plaintiffs - Appellees, v. Heinkel Filtering Systems, Inc., Defendant Pepperl & Fuchs, Inc. Defendant - Appellant Bill Mullen, Michelle Mullen, Plaintiffs - Appellees, v. Heinkel Filtering Systems, Inc., Defendant - Appellant Pepperl & Fuchs, Inc., Defendant|
|Attorney:||For Bill Mullen, Michelle Mullen, Plaintiffs - Appellees (13-3512): Steven J. Crowley, Crowley & Bunger, Burlington, IA; Keith James Larson, Patrick M. Roby, Elderkin & Pirnie, Cedar Rapids, IA. For Pepperl & Fuchs, Inc., Defendant - Appellant (13-3512): Jay Campbell Helton, Whitfield & Eddy, Des...|
|Judge Panel:||Before WOLLMAN, LOKEN, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||October 22, 2014|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit|
Submitted September 8, 2014
Appeals from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Waterloo.
Heinkel Filtering Systems, Inc. (Heinkel), and Pepperl & Fuchs, Inc. (Pepperl), appeal from an order of the district court1 granting Bill and Michelle Mullen's motion to dismiss without prejudice. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.
In December 2011, Bill Mullen sustained injuries on the job from a centrifuge manufactured by Heinkel and containing a component part sold and distributed by Pepperl. Mullen and his wife, Michelle, brought suit against Heinkel and Pepperl in Iowa state court, seeking damages based on a products-liability theory. In December 2012, Heinkel removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction: the Mullens are Iowa residents, Heinkel is an Ohio corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio, and Pepperl is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey.
In February 2013, the magistrate judge2 set the scheduling order. The Mullens' deadline for disclosing expert witnesses was May 1, 2013. The deadline was later extended to July 1, 2013. The Mullens failed to name an expert by that date, and they did not file a motion to extend the expert deadline until August 9, 2013. Following an August 28, 2013, hearing on the motion, the magistrate judge entered an order on September 4, 2013, refusing to extend the expert disclosure deadline, finding that the Mullens' attorney " simply forgot about the deadline[,]" which did not constitute " excusable neglect" as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b).
The following day, the Mullens filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice. In their brief supporting the motion, the Mullens stated that because of recent discovery disclosures, they intended to add defendants
who had modified, inspected, or serviced the centrifuge. Although the Mullens had not yet taken the depositions necessary to identify these defendants, they argued that they would probably destroy diversity. The Mullens reasoned that these additional defendants were " more than likely Iowa[-]based, since the machine is located [t]here." Furthermore, the Mullens argued that Heinkel and Pepperl would not be prejudiced, since the case had not progressed very far. Both Heinkel and Pepperl filed briefs in opposition.
On September 18, 2013, the Mullens filed a motion requesting reconsideration of the magistrate judge's ruling on the expert deadline, arguing that without expert testimony, the case would not be adjudicated on the merits because the Mullens would be unable to meet their burden of proof. On that same day, the Mullens also filed a motion to compel discovery. On October 21, 2013, the district court entered an order reserving ruling on both the motion to reconsider the magistrate's expert-deadline ruling and the motion to dismiss without prejudice until the magistrate judge resolved the motion to compel.
The magistrate judge held a hearing on the motion to compel discovery on November 4, 2013. Before any ruling was entered on the motion, the district court entered an order on November 8, 2013, granting the Mullens' motion to dismiss without prejudice. The district court's order set forth a brief description of the case, noting that the case had " bec[o]me entangled in discovery and procedural disputes." The district court gave no reason for granting the dismissal, other than stating that the " court considers it proper that under these circumstances the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss without prejudice shall be granted." The district court ordered the parties to bear their own costs, awarded no fees to Heinkel and Pepperl, and entered no ruling on the motion to reconsider the magistrate judge's expert-deadline ruling.
At the time of the dismissal, very little discovery had been completed. Heinkel had responded to some interrogatories and had produced 3500 pages of documents, but had objected to each of the Mullens' requests for production. The Mullens had not yet served discovery on Pepperl, nor had they responded to the defendants' discovery requests. As of September 2013, no depositions had been taken.
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