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Boling v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

June 30, 2017

CLARENCE BOLING, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendants. CHRISTOPHER PAYNE, Plaintiffs,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Rules of this Court, and referral Orders [Doc. 135] [Doc. 44] of the Chief District Judge.

         Now before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion to Stay [Doc. 37], filed in Boling, v. CSX Transp., , No. 3:16-cv-488, and the Plaintiffs' Motion for Stay [Doc. 31], filed in Payne, v. CSX Transp., et al., No. 3:16-cv-489.[1] Both Defendants have objected to the requested stays. The Motions are now ripe for adjudication. Accordingly, for the reasons more fully explained below, the Court finds the Plaintiffs' Motion to Stay [Doc. 37], filed in No. 3:16-cv 488, and the Plaintiffs' Motion for Stay [Doc. 31], filed in No. 3:16-cv-489, not well-taken, and they are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Both cases result from a train derailment that occurred in Maryville, Tennessee, on July 1, 2015. The Complaint [Doc. 1] in Boling v. CSX Transp. , No. 3:16-cv-488 (“Boling”) is a “mass tort personal injury action” that alleges negligence, private nuisance, gross negligence, recklessness, and infliction of emotional distress, which stems from the train derailment and release of acrylonitrile. The Complaint [Doc. 1] in Payne, v. CSX Transp., et al., No. 3:16-cv-489 (“Payne”) is also a “mass tort personal injury action” that alleges the same theories based on the same incident.

         After the Defendants in both cases removed to this Court [Doc. 1], the undersigned consolidated the cases for purposes of discovery and motion practice. Subsequently, the District Judge issued Scheduling Orders for both cases on May 4, 2017, and set the trials for October 15, 2018. With respect to the instant matters, the Plaintiffs filed for a Motion for Stay requesting that the Court stay further proceedings pending the disposition of the consolidated cases of Tipton, v. CSX Transp., , No. 3:15-cv-00311 (“Tipton”).

         II. POSITIONS OF THE PARITES

         In support of their Motions, the Plaintiffs argue that it would promote judicial economy to allow the resolution of the Tipton matter, which is a class action case involving the evacuees of the July 1, 2015 Maryville train derailment. Furthermore, the Plaintiffs aver that a stay upon the resolution of Tipton would simplify the liability issues in each case, if not dispose of both cases entirely through settlement discussions. In addition, the Plaintiffs assert that staying the cases would not cause the Defendants undue prejudice or tactical disadvantage. Finally, the Plaintiffs argue that they would suffer hardship in responding to extensive discovery if each case is not stayed.

         Defendant Union Tank responds that the Motion for Stay should be denied, claiming that the Plaintiffs have not presented a compelling reason for the Court to stay all proceedings, as the issues in the present cases are not identical to the issues pending in the Tipton case. Defendant Union Tank acknowledges that certain identical issues exist between the present matters and the Tipton case, but it argues that a specific discovery plan and scheduling order could prevent the duplication of effort. In addition, Defendant Union Tank asserts that the Plaintiffs will not suffer irreparable injury if the cases move forward.

         Defendant CSX Transportation also responds in opposition to the Plaintiffs' Motion for Stay asserting that no judicial efficiency will be gained by a stay due to the consolidated nature of the Tipton case. The Defendant argues that a stay will stall the litigation, while hindering further resolution efforts. Finally, Defendant CSX Transportation asserts that the Plaintiffs have not met their burden for proving a stay is appropriate.

         III. ANALYSIS

         It is well-established that a court may exercise its “inherent [power] to control the disposition of the cases on its docket.” Proctor & Gamble Co. v. Team Techs., Inc., No. 1:12-cv-552, 2013 WL 4830950, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 10, 2013) (quoting Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)) (brackets in Proctor & Gamble). Further, the “burden is on the party seeking the stay to show that there is pressing need for delay, and that neither the other party nor the public will suffer harm from entry of the order [staying the case].” Ohio Envtl. Council v. U.S. Dist. Court, 545 F.2d 393, 396 (6th Cir. 1977). The Sixth Circuit has explained:

A district court has discretion to determine whether a stay is necessary to avoid piecemeal, duplicative litigation and potentially conflicting results. In exercising this discretion, district courts are to be accorded wide latitude. . . .
While no precise test has developed to guide district courts in deciding whether to grant requested stays, courts have noted a number of relevant considerations. The most important consideration is the balance of hardships; the moving party has the burden of proving that it will suffer irreparable injury if the case moves forward, and that the non-moving party will not be injured by a stay. The district court must also consider whether granting the stay will further the interest in economical use of judicial time and resources. Relevant to this consideration is the question of whether a separate ...

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