United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
April 15, 2015
ADVANCED FLUID SYSTEMS, INC., Plaintiff
KEVIN HUBER, INSYSMA INTEGRATED SYSTEMS AND MACHINERY, LLC, LIVINGSTON & HAVEN, LLC, CLIFTON B. VANN IV, and THOMAS AUFIERO, Defendants
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, CHIEF JUDGE
AND NOW, this 15th day of April, 2015, upon consideration of the motion (Doc. 81) for partial summary judgment on liability filed by plaintiff Advanced Fluid Systems, Inc. ("AFS"), wherein AFS seeks judgment on liability against all defendants for misappropriation of trade secrets, against defendant Kevin Huber ("Huber") for breach of fiduciary duty, and against all defendants other than Huber for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty, and upon further consideration of AFS's motion (Doc. 118) to strike or deem admitted the responses of defendants Huber and Integrated Systems and Machinery, LLC ("INSYSMA") to AFS's statements of material facts, portions of the declaration of Huber, and certain exhibits submitted by Huber and INSYSMA, and upon further consideration of AFS's motion (Doc. 120) to strike or deem admitted the responses of defendants Livingston & Haven, LLC ("L&H"), Clifton B. Vann IV, and Thomas Aufiero ("Aufiero") (collectively, the "L&H defendants") to AFS's statements of material facts, portions of the declarations of Craig Hill ("Hill") and Aufiero, and certain exhibits submitted by the L&H defendants, and the court noting that AFS's motions to strike request that the court deem admitted in whole or in part more than 150 paragraphs of AFS's statements of material facts as to Huber and INSYSMA (Doc. 118-2, Ex. 1) and more than 80 paragraphs as to the L&H defendants (Doc. 120-2, Ex. 1), and that AFS's motions to strike include, inter alia, objections with respect to the form of defendants' responses, the extent to which defendants' responses fail to controvert the "material substance" of AFS's statements of material facts, the extent to which defendants' responses are not supported by record evidence, and the extent to which defendants' responses are not supported by admissible record evidence,  and further noting that AFS objects to more than 70 paragraphs of Huber's declaration on the grounds that, inter alia, Huber's averments contain hearsay, lack personal knowledge, state legal conclusions, or are based on opinion or belief (Doc. 119 at 17-20), that AFS objects to one paragraph in Hill's declaration and the majority of Aufiero's original and revised declarations on similar grounds (Doc. 121 at 19-21; Doc. 133 at 24-32), and that AFS has lodged overlapping objections to the entirety or portions of many of the paragraphs at issue (see Doc. 118-3, Ex. 2), and further noting that AFS requests that the court strike in whole or in part, on the basis of hearsay, more than 15 exhibits that defendants submitted in connection with their oppositions to AFS's motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 133 at 10-12, 32-34), and the court observing that, by stipulation and order dated July 8, 2014, the court set a fact discovery deadline of December 31, 2014, an expert discovery deadline of April 30, 2015, and a dispositive motion deadline of May 29, 2015 (Doc. 72 (highlighting that "this case involves, inter alia, numerous technical engineering drawings which need to be produced and analyzed" and will likely necessitate numerous depositions)), but that AFS moved for partial summary judgment on October 20, 2014 prior to the close of fact discovery (Doc. 81), and that, as permitted by stipulations and orders entered on October 24, 2014, December 2, 2014, and December 12, 2014 (Docs. 100, 106, 108), which suspended discovery deadlines unrelated to AFS's motion for partial summary judgment, defendants responded to AFS's motion on December 19, 2014 (Docs. 111-1, 112), less than nine weeks after AFS filed said motion, and further observing that summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), but that the court must afford the party opposing summary judgment an adequate opportunity for discovery, see Doe v. Abington Friends Sch., 480 F.3d 252, 257 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Dowling v. City of Philadelphia, 855 F.2d 136, 139 (3d Cir. 1988)),  and it appearing that the parties have produced a significant number of documents (see Doc. 82 at l),  but that discovery is ongoing and that no party has deposed any witnesses in this action (Doc. 112 at 18), and it further appearing that disposition of AFS's motion for partial summary judgment at this time would require the court to resolve hundreds of evidentiary disputes raised by the parties' statements of material facts, responses thereto, and briefing on AFS's motions to strike, many of which disputes implicate the existence of genuine issues of material fact, and that the completion of discovery, and in particular depositions of relevant witnesses, may obviate or clarify many of these evidentiary issues, including the likelihood that evidence that defendants present in an inadmissible form in opposing summary judgment would be capable of admission at trial, see Bender v. Norfolk S. Corp., 994 F.Supp.2d 593, 599 (M.D. Pa. 2014); Laputka v. Pa. State Univ., No. 3:CV-11-1967, 2013 WL 1826379, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 30, 2013), and the court finding that the parties' pervasive evidentiary objections have so significantly clouded the record that resolution of AFS's motion for partial summary judgment and motions to strike at this time would constitute an inefficient use of judicial resources and frustrate the purpose of summary adjudication, see, e.g., Dean v. Douglas, No. 5:12-CV-120 CAR, 2012 WL 6151137, at *6 (M.D. Ga. Dec. 11, 2012) (denying motion for partial summary judgment on the basis of efficiency); In re G-I Holdings Inc., No. 01-30135 (RG), 2007 WL 1412294, at *4 (D.N.J. May 14, 2007) (same), and further finding that the complex nature of this action, the ongoing status of discovery, and the scope of evidentiary disputes render disposition of AFS's motion for partial summary judgment premature at this juncture, see, e.g., Bailev-P.V.S. Oxides, LLC v. S & K Packaging, Inc., No. 8-1596, 2009 WL 3294862, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 13, 2009) (denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment as premature on the ground that additional discovery was necessary); La Fata v. Raytheon Co., 223 F.Supp.2d 668, 679-80 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (denying the parties' motions for summary judgment on the grounds that discovery was incomplete and certain defendants had not addressed a complex issue), it is hereby ORDERED that:
1. AFS's motion (Doc. 81) for partial summary judgment on liability is DENIED without prejudice to refile said motion following the close of discovery.
2. AFS's motion (Doc. 118) to strike or deem admitted is DENIED as moot.
3. AFS's motion (Doc. 120) to strike or deem admitted is DENIED as moot.
4. Any suspension of discovery imposed by the stipulations and orders dated October 24, 2014, December 2, 2014, and December 12, 2014 (Docs. 100, 106, 108) is LIFTED for all purposes.
5. The parties shall forthwith meet and confer and thereafter submit to the court a revised pretrial schedule incorporating information pertinent to the court's standard case management order.
6. A revised pretrial schedule will issue by separate order.