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Coulter v. Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 11, 2017

JEAN COULTER, Plaintiff,


          Arthur J. Schwab, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Jean Coulter (“Plaintiff” or “Coulter”) initiated this action against the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center and several individual Defendants by filing a Complaint on February 1, 2016. Coulter is no stranger to the federal court system. As a sophisticated, serial litigator, Coulter has filed numerous cases in this District Court and has also filed cases in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, District of Massachusetts, and Southern District of New York.[1]Coulter is similarly familiar with the appellate process, having filed multiple appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and at least two petitions for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, Nos. 13-3607 (denied) and 14-1316 (denied).[2]

         Thus, Coulter has more than seven (7) years of litigating experience in federal court, making her familiar with the rules and procedures of the courts. Further, in the instant case, Coulter has been reminded several times of the importance of timely complying with Orders of Court to ensure the efficient and fair resolution of this matter - - that she chose to file in federal court. See Doc. No. 68 (granting Defendant's Motion to Compel Plaintiff's Compliance with a scheduling order requiring her to meet and confer with Defendants pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 and reminding Plaintiff of her obligation to timely comply with Court Orders, file required pleadings, and to prosecute her case); Doc. No. 27 (noting that the Court's scheduling orders setting deadlines are not evidence of bias against Plaintiff or any party, but are within the Court's authority and duty to manage each case in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1 - -to ensure the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding”).

         II. Procedural History and the Instant Motion

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Complaint against Defendants on February 1, 2016. Doc. No. 1. After Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss (doc. nos. 10 and 17), Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint alleging that Defendants (1) breached a contract or an implied contract to repay a $50, 000.00 loan Plaintiff made to Defendant Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center (the “Dunbar Center”) in July 2013; (2) were negligent in the management of the Dunbar Center; (3) fraudulently induced Plaintiff into providing the loan; and (4) engaged in fraud and a civil conspiracy in the failure to repay the loan to Plaintiff. Doc. No. 29 and Doc. No. 50-1 (United States Court of Appeals Opinion finding that a liberal interpretation of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint includes a claim for fraudulent inducement). The Dunbar Center entered a Notice of Offer of Judgment in the amount of “$59, 000.00 inclusive of interest, if any, plus costs accrued to the date of th[e] offer” on February 29, 2016 - - more than the full amount of the loan at issue as stated in the Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 2.

         On March 29, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, which the Court granted, finding that Plaintiff had failed to adequately plead most of her claims and that the Court lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining breach of contract claim because it did not satisfy the amount in controversy requirement for the Court to exercise diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Doc. No. 43. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's breach of contract claim without prejudice and directed that it should be filed in state court. Doc. No. 43. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which vacated the dismissals and “remand[ed] for the District Court to consider in the first instance whether [Plaintiff's] claims satisfied the amount in controversy requirement as of the filing of her complaint [including amounts associated with claims that were ultimately dismissed].” Doc. No. 50-1. On May 24, 2017, this Court entered a Text Order, finding that the amount in controversy and diversity jurisdiction was established by the record and ordering Defendants to respond to the Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 51.

         Defendants filed renewed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in its entirety, except for the breach of contract claim asserted against the Dunbar Center. Doc. No. 57 and Doc. No. 59.

         The Court again found that Plaintiff had not adequately pled her negligent mismanagement, fraudulent inducement, and civil conspiracy claims and dismissed all claims against all Defendants except for the breach of contract claim against the Dunbar Center for the unpaid $50, 000 loan.[3] Doc. No. 69. In the interim, the Court directed the parties to meet and confer in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 and the Local Rules, and to submit the Rule 26(f) Report, ADR Stipulation, and a proposed case management order in advance of the initial case management conference. Doc. No. 68 (granting Defendants' motion to compel Plaintiff's compliance, rescheduling the initial case management conference, and directing Plaintiff to comply with the previous order setting the case management conference, doc. no. 52, and to file the required documents, after she failed to meet with Defendants or respond to their correspondence).

         Plaintiff then filed the required Rule 26(f) Report, a Proposed Case Management Order, and the ADR Stipulation as directed. Doc. No. 71, Doc. No. 72, Doc. No. 74. The Court struck the ADR Stipulation and ordered the Parties to refile it with the required date of the ADR session and the names and titles of all persons who would attend. Doc. No. 73. Defendant's Counsel re-filed the ADR Stipulation. Doc. No. 75. Plaintiff then filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal of all claims except her breach of contract claim, along with her fourth motion for recusal. Doc. No. 77. The Court denied Plaintiff's motions by Memorandum Order filed August 14, 2017. Doc. No. 79.

         The Initial Case Management Conference was rescheduled for August 16, 2017 at 9:00 AM. Doc. No. 68. Defense Counsel appeared at the conference, but Plaintiff failed to appear. See Text Minute Entry, 08/16/2017. Plaintiff did not file any motion seeking a continuance of the initial case management conference, nor did she contact the Court or Defense Counsel to offer an explanation for her failure to appear. Id. Defense Counsel indicated that he had been in contact with Plaintiff, and met with her as required by the Court's Order at Doc. No. 68, but that Plaintiff had not responded to his subsequent attempts to contact her. Id.

         Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Prosecution on the same date. Doc. No. 80. The Court set Plaintiff's response for August 24, 2017. Doc. No. 82. Plaintiff did not file a response by August 24, 2017 and has not filed any response to date. She instead filed notice of an interlocutory appeal of the Court's Order dismissing all claims except for her breach of contract claim on August 25, 2017. Doc. No. 84.

         Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Remaining Claim for Failure to Prosecute and Motion for Reasonable Attorney Fees and Costs incurred in preparing for and attending the Initial Case Management Conference and for preparation of the instant motion is now pending before the Court. Doc. No. 80. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be GRANTED, Plaintiff's remaining claim will be DISMISSED, and attorney fees in the amount of $1, 632.50 and costs totaling $90.86 will be awarded to Defendant.

         III. ...

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