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Williams v. LA Quinta Development Partners L.P.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville

September 21, 2017

TARVIS WILLIAMS and CORIE GREEN, Plaintiffs,
v.
LA QUINTA DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS L.P. and its wholly-owned subsidiary BRE/LQ PROPERTIES, L.L.C., d/b/a LA QUINTA INN, Defendants.

          JEFFREY FRENSLEY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE (DKT. 19) AND DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO PROSECUTE (DKT. 15) AND TO STRIKE OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE FOR PERMISSION TO FILE A REPLY (DKT. 20)

          TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This is a negligence action against a Nashville La Quinta Inn for failing to adequately protect its guests from outside intruders. Tar-vis Williams and Corie Green (“Plaintiffs”) were followed to their room during a stay at La Quinta, tortured, and robbed. Dkt. 1-1.

         Plaintiffs originally filed this action in state court in August, 2016 and Defendants removed it to federal court in September. Dkt. 1. After the case was removed Plaintiffs did little to advance this litigation: they twice failed to submit proposed case management orders, did not appear at the Initial Case Management Conference, and did not serve or respond to any discovery during the discovery period, which ended on June 22, 2017. See Dkts. 15 at Pg ID 2-3; 20-1 at Pg ID 119; 21 at Pg ID 127.

         In March, 2017 Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute, Dkt. 15. Plaintiffs did not respond to Defendants Motion to Dismiss until June 9, 2017, when they also filed their own Motion to Dismiss. Dkts. 17; 19.

         Both parties agree that this case should be dismissed. Dkt. 18 (Plaintiffs' Mot. to Dismiss); Dkt. 21 (Defendant's Mot. in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Mot. to Dismiss). Their only disagreement is whether the dismissal should be with or without prejudice. Id. Defendants also argue they are entitled to attorneys' fees for defending against this action. Dkt. 21. For the reasons outlined below, Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 18, is GRANTED without prejudice and without the condition that Plaintiffs pay Defendants' attorneys' fees. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute and their Motion to Strike or in the Alternative for Permission to File a Reply, Dkts. 15; 20, are DENIED as moot.

         II. Background

         On August 19, 2015 three assailants followed Plaintiffs to their room in a Nashville La Quinta, forced their way into that room, and then shackled and assaulted Plaintiffs. Dkt. 1-1 at Pg. ID 9. The assailants beat Plaintiff Williams and burned him with a hot iron, so that he would reveal where Plaintiffs were storing their money and other valuables. Id. The assailants also threatened to kill Plaintiffs. Id. After the assault, Plaintiff Williams was hospitalized for his burns and other injuries. Id. At Pg ID 9-10.

         One year later, Plaintiffs filed this action in Tennessee state court against La Quinta Development Partners, L.P, and its subsidiary property management company-BRE/LQ Properties LLC-which owned and operated the La Quinta at which Plaintiffs were assaulted. Dkt. 1-1. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants breached their duty of care by failing to provide adequate security for their guests; particularly given the hotel's location in a known high-crime area. Dkt. 1-1 at Pg ID 10. Plaintiffs requested 2 million dollars in compensatory damages and 5 million dollars in exemplary and punitive damages. Dkt. 1-1 at Pg ID 12.

         Defendants removed this case to federal court on September 13, 2016, Dkt. 1, and filed their Answer to the Complaint on September 20, 2016. Dkt. 6. Defendants then submitted their first, Proposed Case Management Order on November 7, 2016. Dkt. 7. The Court set the Initial Case Management Conference for December 8, 2016. Dkt. 8. Defendants filed a second Proposed Case Management Order on December 5, 2016. Dkt. 9.

         Plaintiffs' original counsel was not admitted in the Middle District of Tennessee, so Plaintiffs' local counsel, Attorney Luvell Glan-ton, entered an initial appearance on December 7, 2016. Dkt. 10. On December 8, 2016, Defendants filed a motion on behalf of Plaintiffs to continue the Initial Case Management Conference until January 11, 2017, Dkt. 11, which the Court granted. Dkt. 12.

         In advance of that rescheduled case management conference, Defendants submitted a third Proposed Case Management Order, which noted that Plaintiffs had not initiated any preparation of the proposed order as they were required to under Local Rule 16.01(d), nor had they responded to any drafts of the proposed orders that Defendants had sent to them. Dkt. 13 at Pg ID 46, n. 1. Plaintiffs did not appear at the rescheduled case management conference on January 11, 2017. Dkt. 14 at Pg ID 51, and the Court adopted Defendants' proposed discovery and briefing schedule. Id.

         On March 17, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1) and 41(b). Dkt. 15. Defendants seek dismissal under either Rule 37(c)(1) (because Plaintiffs have not complied with court orders to initiate the case management process, appear at the case management conference, and serve their Initial Disclosures under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26); or under Rule 41(b) (because Plaintiffs have not prosecuted their case); or under both rules. Dkt. 15 at Pg ID 57, 59.

         This case was reassigned to Judge Terrence Berg in the Eastern District of Michigan on April 11, 2017 at which time Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute, Dkt. 15, was still pending without a response.

         On June 9, 2017 Plaintiffs filed both an opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 15, and their own Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). Dkts. 17; 18.

         In their response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs “acknowledg[ed] that they [had] failed to initiate the preparation and submission of a proposed case management order, ” and “that they [had] made minimal effort to move this case forward.” Dkt. 17 at Pg ID 103. Plaintiffs' counsel's justification for this was that he had more recently joined the case as local counsel-because lead counsel was not admitted in the Middle District of Tennessee-had only received one electronic notice in the case since entering his appearance, and was thus unaware of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute. Id.

         In their Motion for Order Dismissing Case Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2), Plaintiffs state they can no longer afford to litigate the case and assert that dismissal without prejudice or “curative conditions” (i.e., attorneys' fees) is warranted because Defendants have not spent significant time or money preparing for trial, neither ...


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