United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Kenneth P. Kellogg; Rachel Kellogg and Kellogg Farms, Inc.; and Roland B. Bromley and Bromley Ranch, LLC, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Watts Guerra, LLP; Daniel M. Homolka, P.A.; Yira Law Office LTD; Hovland and Rasmus, PLLC; Dewald Deaver, P.C. LLO; Givens Law, LLC; Mauro, Archer & Associates, LLC; Johnson Law Group; Wagner Reese, LLP; VanDerGinst Law, P.C.; Patton Hoversten & Berg, P.A.; Cross Law Firm, LLC; Law Office of Michael Miller; Pagel Weikum PLLP; Wojtalewicz Law Firm, Ltd.; Mikal C. Watts; Francisco Guerra; and John Does 1-50, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court has before it two related matters: (1) Defendants
Daniel M. Homolka, P.A. and Yira Law Office Ltd.'s Motion
to Stay Pending Transfer by Judicial Panel on Multidistrict
Litigation (the “Stay Motion”) (Doc. No. 10); and
(2) Plaintiffs' appeal of the Magistrate Judge's May
25, 2018 Order Staying Deadlines to Respond to the Complaint
(Doc. No. 61). All other defendants join the Stay Motion.
(Doc. Nos. 34, 47.) Plaintiffs oppose the Stay Motion. (Doc.
April 24, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint in
this matter, alleging that Defendants deceptively solicited
corn growers to sign Defendants' 40-percent contingent
fee retainer contracts to file individual lawsuits in
Minnesota state courts as a scheme to collect an unreasonable
fee. (Doc. Nos. 1, 61.) On April 30, 2018, Defendants moved
to transfer the matter to MDL 2591, In re: Syngenta AG
MIR162 Corn Litig., pending in the United States
District Court for the District of Kansas. (Doc. No. 12, Ex.
1.) On May 1, 2018, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict
Litigation (“JPML”) issued a Conditional Transfer
Order (“CTO-85”), which transferred this case to
the above-referenced MDL proceeding. On May 7, 2018,
Plaintiffs filed their opposition to CTO-85. (Doc. No. 12,
Ex. 3.) The JPML has scheduled a hearing, without oral
argument, for July 26, 2018, on Plaintiffs' motion to
vacate CTO-85. (Doc. No. 74, Ex. 2.)
21, 2018, Defendants Hovland and Rasmus, PLLC, Dewald Deaver,
P.C. Patton Hoversten & Berg, P.A., and Wojtalewicz Law
Firm, Ltd. filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File
Answer, which the other defendants joined. (Doc. Nos. 24, 32,
36, 46.) On May 25, 2018, Magistrate Judge Thorson granted
Defendants' Motion to Extend Time to Answer the Complaint
Pending Transfer by Judicial Panel on Multidistrict
Litigation. (Doc. No. 49.) On June 8, 2018, Plaintiffs moved
to vacate that Order under L.R. 72.2(c)(1)(A). (Doc. No. 60.)
parties have filed numerous other motions and scheduled
hearings on those motions, the schedules for which are tied
to the instant motion. (Doc Nos. 43, 50, 69.)
power to manage its docket and to stay proceedings is within
the district court's discretion. See, e.g.,
Dane Techs., Inc. v. Gatekeeper Sys., Inc., Civ. No.
12-2730, 2013 WL 4483355, at *3 (D. Minn. Aug. 20, 2013)
(citing Ethicon, Inc. v. Quigg, 849 F.2d 1422,
1426-27 (Fed. Cir. 1988)). The burden of establishing that a
stay is appropriate is with the party seeking the stay.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst. v. Apple Inc., Civ. No.
13-633, 2014 WL 201965, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2014)
(citation omitted). When considering a motion to stay, courts
consider the potential stay's impact on judicial
resources, the hardship and inequity to the moving party if
the case is not stayed, and the prejudice to the non-moving
party. Kemp v. Tyson Seafood Grp., Inc., 19
F.Supp.2d 961, 964-65 (D. Minn. 1998).
purpose of an MDL is to coordinate pretrial proceedings
“for the convenience of parties and witnesses and [to]
promote the just and efficient conduct of such
actions.” 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a). Coordination is
necessary to “avoid inconsistent pretrial rulings, and
conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the
judiciary.” In re Vioxx Prods. Liab. Litig.,
360 F.Supp.2d 1352, 1354 (J.P.M.L. 2005). Consequently,
courts will sometimes defer resolution of certain pretrial
matters until the JPML decides whether a case should be
transferred to the MDL court. Calder v. A.O. Smith
Corp., Civ. No. 04-1481, 2004 WL 1469370, at *1 (D.
Minn. June 1, 2004); see Rivers v. Walt Disney Co.,
980 F.Supp. 1358, 1362 (C.D. Cal. 1997) (observing that a
majority of courts have reached this conclusion).
argue that a stay will conserve judicial and party resources
and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay,
relying primarily on the fact that they would be forced to
engage in costly discovery and motion practice pending the
JPML's decision. These factors weigh in favor of a stay.
If the JPML orders the case transferred, all parties and the
Court will benefit from saving resources that would otherwise
be expended on the motions pending before this Court. Without
a stay, if the JPML transfers the case, the Court will expend
significant resources familiarizing itself with the facts and
law of a case that will be heard in another court. Defendants
and Plaintiffs will also expend resources briefing the three
motions currently pending, as well as any others yet to be
filed. (See Doc. Nos. 43, 50, 69.) Under these
circumstances, Defendants have demonstrated a risk that they
will suffer significant hardship absent a stay.
addition, the Court notes that it appears there will be
little harm to Plaintiffs if a stay is issued. Although the
Court takes seriously the delay to Plaintiffs' “day
in court, ” Defendants only seek a stay pending the
JPML's decision on CTO-85. There is no reason to think
that the JPML will not resolve the issue in a timely manner.
Therefore, should the JPML reverse CTO-85, the parties will
proceed with briefing and hearings on the pending motions
without significant delay. Plaintiffs argue, however, that
the Syngenta MDL does not have the time or reason to
address class certification and discovery for Plaintiffs
because pretrial proceedings have concluded and a final MDL
settlement hearing is scheduled for November 15, 2018. (Doc.
No. 61 at 13-14.) The Court disagrees. The Court has no
reason to suspect that the MDL court will not consider
Plaintiffs' arguments and requests if the case is
balance, after considering all the relevant factors, and for
the reasons stated above, the Court concludes that all three
factors weigh in favor of a stay. Thus, the Court grants
upon the presentations and submissions of the parties, the
Court having carefully reviewed the entire procedural history
and record in this matter, and the Court being otherwise duly