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Morgenstern v. Fox Television Stations of Philadelphia

February 23, 2010

DAVID MORGENSTERN
v.
FOX TELEVISION STATIONS OF PHILADELPHIA D/B/A/ FOX 29 PHILADELPHIA, FOX TELEVISION STATIONS, INC., JEFF COLE, PHILADELPHIA MEDIA HOLDINGS, LLC, D/B/A PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, DAVE DAVIES, GAR JOSEPH, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL 98, AND JOHN J. DOUGHERTY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before me are two motions. First, plaintiff has moved to compel answers to the first set of interrogatories addressed to defendant John J. Dougherty. Dougherty opposes the motion. Second, Dougherty and I.B.E.W. Local 98 have moved to place the action in civil suspense.*fn1 Plaintiff opposes that motion. Because the two motions are interrelated, I will discuss both in this memorandum. For the following reasons, I will grant both motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a complaint against a variety of defendants including Philadelphia Media Holdings, LLC d/b/a Philadelphia Daily News, Dave Davies and Gar Joseph (collectively, "Daily News defendants"), as well as Dougherty and Local 98. Plaintiff alleged that defendants had made false and defamatory statements about him. Dougherty and Local 98 then filed a cross claim seeking indemnification from all other defendants. Discovery proceeded amongst all parties until, on June 10, 2009, Philadelphia Media Holdings filed for bankruptcy. Thereafter, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §362(a), all civil litigation to which Philadelphia Media Holdings was a party was automatically stayed. The Bankruptcy Court extended the stay to "non-debtor affiliates" of Philadelphia Media Holdings, including Davies and Joseph.

In light of the stay, the parties concluded that they would be unable to complete discovery by the February 26, 2010 deadline set out in my scheduling Order. The uncertainty surrounding the bankruptcy proceedings rendered them unable even to propose a new scheduling Order. In a December 10, 2010 letter to me, plaintiff admitted that the parties were unable to move forward and, in essence, asked that I come up with solution short of holding the case in abeyance.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Motion to Hold the Case in Abeyance

This Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings. Bechtel Corp. v. Local 215, Laborer's Intern. Union of N. America, AFL-CIO, 544 F.2d 1207, 1215 (3d Cir. 1976). This power is "incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936). In deciding a motion to stay, the court must "weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance." Id.

My colleague, Judge Pollak, under slightly different circumstances,*fn2 discussed five factors relevant to the balancing analysis:

(1) the interest of the plaintiffs in proceeding expeditiously with this litigation or any particular aspect of it, and the potential prejudice to plaintiffs of a delay; (2) the burden which any particular aspect of the proceedings may impose on defendants; (3) the convenience of the court in the management of its cases, and the efficient use of judicial resources; (4) the interests of persons not parties to the civil litigation; and (5) the interest of the public in the pending civil and criminal litigation.

See Golden Quality, 87 F.R.D. at 56.

II. Motion to Compel

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the scope of discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. It provides that a party may "obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. Rule 33 governs the use of interrogatories for the purpose of discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33. It provides that "[e]ach interrogatory must . . . be answered separately and fully in writing under oath." Id. at 33(b)(3). To the extent that a party objects to an interrogatory, such ...


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