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Hancock v. Aetna Life Insurance Company

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

October 3, 2017

JUDITH HANCOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO CONTINUE

          JAMES L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Plaintiff Judith Hancock's motion to continue the remaining pretrial deadlines and the trial date by 60 days. (Mot. (Dkt. # 64).) Defendants Aetna Life Insurance Company (“Aetna”), The Boeing Company Employee Health and Welfare Benefit Plan (Plan 503), and Employee Benefits Plans Committee (collectively, “Defendants”) oppose the motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 68).) The court has considered the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1]the court grants in part and denies in part the motion for the reasons set forth below.

         II. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Aetna's denial of long-term disability benefits (“LTD benefits”) to Ms. Hancock. (See SAC (Dkt. # 24) ¶¶ 1.2, 4.40, 4.51.) In addition to a claim for LTD benefits, Ms. Hancock alleges that Defendants breached their fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 5.4, 5.6-5.18.)

         On July 20, 2017, the court granted in part and denied in part Ms. Hancock's motion to compel and Defendants' motion for a protective order. (7/20/17 Order (Dkt. # 63) at 2.) Relevant to the instant motion, the court ordered Aetna to produce its “guidelines regarding LTD claims and appeals and hiring outside medical professionals to perform examinations and reviews, ” but only for “such policies that were in place during the evaluation of Ms. Hancock's claim and appeal.” (Id. at 17.) Following the court's order, counsel for the parties discussed production of the relevant claims information and on August 23, 2017, Aetna produced 134 pages responsive to the request for Aetna's claims information. (See Mot. at 3-4; see also Crawford Decl. (Dkt. # 65) ¶¶ 2-13.) Then, after Ms. Hancock requested that Aetna admit or deny that it had produced all materials responsive to that request, on September 13, 2017, Aetna made a supplemental production of 190 pages. (Mot. at 5; Crawford Decl. ¶¶ 14-15.) The next day, Ms. Hancock served additional discovery requests-two interrogatories and five requests for production-related to Aetna's 190-page supplemental production. (Reply (Dkt. # 70) at 1; Crawford Decl. ¶ 17; 2d Crawford Decl. (Dkt. # 71) ¶ 2.)

         On September 14, 2017, Ms. Hancock moved to continue the remaining pretrial deadlines and trial date by 60 days. (Mot. at 1.) She contends that Aetna's supplemental production prompted her to request additional discovery. (Id. at 3-5; Reply at 1.) Because Ms. Hancock served that additional discovery on September 14, 2017, Aetna has until October 14, 2017, to respond to those new requests. (Mot. at 6); Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(A). Even though that date is well before the November 6, 2017, discovery cutoff (Sched. Order (Dkt. # 20) at 1), should Aetna object to the newly served discovery, Ms. Hancock may not be able to file an appropriate discovery motion because the deadline for doing so is October 6, 2017 (id.; Mot. at 6; Reply at 3). The court now addresses Ms. Hancock's request.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that a schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The good cause inquiry focuses primarily on the diligence of the party requesting the modification. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 607-08 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Because Ms. Hancock has diligently sought discovery and to facilitate a reasonable schedule for resolution of this case, the court extends to October 18, 2017, the deadline for discovery motions related only to Ms. Hancock's September 14th discovery requests.[2] The deadline remains unchanged for any other discovery served before the cutoff.[3]

         Despite this extension, the court strongly encourages the parties to resolve any dispute without seeking the court's intervention. The court has already expended significant resources dealing with the parties' discovery disputes. Nevertheless, should the parties be unable to resolve a dispute related to the September 14, 2017, discovery requests, the court will address the dispute pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(i). See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(i). The parties must file a joint statement of no more than five pages detailing the nature of the dispute and the applicable legal standards. See Id. (“[W]hat procedural requirements will be imposed[] and the type of relief granted are within the sole discretion of the court.”). If the court receives such a motion, it will then schedule a telephonic hearing.[4]

         However, the court denies Ms. Hancock's motion to extend the other remaining pretrial deadlines, including the discovery cutoff, and the trial date by 60 days. She has not shown good cause for doing so, and her request contravenes the court's usual practice of declining short continuances of trial dates. Accordingly, all other dates in the court's scheduling order remain unchanged.

         IV. CONCLUSION

         For the reasons set forth above, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Ms. Hancock's motion to continue (Dkt. # 64). The court GRANTS a continuance of the discovery motions deadline to October 18, 2017, for matters related to Ms. Hancock's September 14, 2017, discovery requests only. Although the court encourages the parties to resolve any such dispute without resort to court intervention, if the parties seek the court's intervention, they must do so by ...


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