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Ross v. The Prudential Insurance Co. of America

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

June 12, 2017

STEPHANIE ROSS, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA; and DOES 1 to 10, inclusive, Defendants.

          McKENNON LAW GROUP PC Robert J. McKennon, Pro Hac Vice Joseph S. McMilien, Pro Hac Vice

          LEPLEY LAW FIRM Patrick H. LePley, WSBA No. 7071 Attorneys for Plaintiff Stephanie Ross

          LANE POWELL PC D. Michael Reilly, WSBA No. 14674 David W. Howenstine, WSBA No. 41216

          SEYFARTH SHAW LLP Amanda A. Sonneborn, Pro Hac Vice M. Busey, Pro Hac Vice Attorneys for Defendant The Prudential Insurance Company of America

          STIPULATED MOTION TO MODIFY SCHEDULING ORDER; ORDER THEREON

          HONORABLE JAMES L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         TO THE HONORABLE JAMES L. ROBART AND HIS COURT CLERK:

         Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 10(g), Plaintiff Stephanie Ross ("Ross") and Defendant The Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential") (collectively "the Parties"), for good cause, hereby stipulate and jointly move this Court to modify the Minute Order Setting Trial Dates and Related Dates, Docket No. 18 ("Scheduling Order"), as specifically set forth below in Section 2.

         1. GOOD CAUSE EXISTS TO MODIFY THE SCHEDULING ORDER

         There is good cause to modify the Scheduling Order in this ERISA action, where Ross alleges she is entitled to recover unpaid disability benefits from Prudential, to reflect a more traditional ERISA litigation plan. Since this is an ERISA action, it will be tried to the Court on Prudential's administrative record and trial briefing citing to that record, with no witnesses, trial exhibits or expert testimony. The bench "trial" in an ERISA action is similar to a hearing on a summary judgment motion, though under Rule 52 instead of 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Parties will argue through their trial briefs, and any oral argument the Court permits, how the administrative record supports their respective positions. Therefore, many of the pretrial requirements set forth in the current Scheduling Order, and the Local Civil Rules incorporated into the Scheduling Order, are unnecessary and a waste of judicial and Party resources. The current Scheduling Order sets forth requirements for a typical jury trial case or bench trial that will include live witness testimony, experts and trial exhibits, none of which will be the case for this ERISA action.

         The Parties unequivocally agree that the Scheduling Order needs to be modified to reflect a more typical scheduling order in an ERISA case. They filed a Rule 26(f) Joint Status Report and Discovery Plan agreeing that this case should be tried to the Court insofar as ERISA does not provide a right to jury trial. See Docket No. 17 at page 4:18. The Parties requested in their Joint Status Report that the Court waive the pretrial requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(e), 26(a)(2), 26(a)(3) and the related Local Civil Rules (e.g., pretrial conference, pretrial order, expert disclosures, the submission of witness lists, exhibit lists, etc.) and sought the Court's permission to conduct trial on opening and responsive trial briefs, based upon the information contained in the administrative record and any other evidence the Court decides to admit in its discretion. Id. at page 4. Specifically, the Parties agreed in their Joint Status Report that good cause exists for waiver of these pretrial requirements in this ERISA-governed actions as follows:

8. Pretrial Statements: The parties agree that the pretrial statements, pretrial conference and pretrial order called for by Local Civil Rules 16(e), (h), (i), (j), (k) and (1) and 16.1 should be dispensed with. Because this is an ERISA case, and will be tried to the Court, the parties request that the Court waive these pretrial requirements and those of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(e) (pretrial conference), 26(a)(2) (expert disclosures) and 26(a)(3) (pre-trial disclosures of witnesses/ exhibits). The parties further seek the Court's permission to conduct trial on cross-briefing, based upon the information contained in the administrative record and any other evidence the Court decides to admit in its discretion. Good cause exists for waiver of the pre-trial requirements as follows:
a. Because of the unique nature of ERISA trials, which in many respects resemble a hearing on a motion for summary judgment, the parties believe that the pretrial conference and its associated pleadings would represent an unnecessary use of judicial and litigant resources.
b. ERISA trials are bench trials conducted under Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties do not presently anticipate calling live witnesses or experts, which is the norm for an ERISA trial. Additionally, the parties believe that the filings normally required pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(e), 26(a)(3) and Local Civil Rules 16(e), (h), (i), (j), (k) and(1) and 16.1 (e.g., witness lists, exhibit lists, pretrial statements etc.) are unnecessary because of the limited scope of the trial. The parties anticipate that the evidence that shall be presented at any trial will consist primarily of the administrative record/claim file and damages evidence, subject to any additional evidence the Court decides to admit in its discretion pursuant to a motion to augment the administrative record.
c. The customary pretrial filings are superfluous because the Court 'trial" will consist of briefing on the administrative record submitted in advance of trial, as well as any oral ...

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