United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
before the Court are Plaintiffs Motion to Renew its Motion
for an Adverse Inference Instruction, (Doc. 116), and
Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Motion to Renew,
(Doc. 125). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant
Plaintiffs Motion to Renew and deny Defendant's Motion to
March 17, 2015, Plaintiff, Crestwood Membranes, Inc., d/b/a
i2M ("i2M"), filed a Complaint against Defendant,
Constant Services, Inc. (“CSI”). (Doc. 1). Prior
to the lawsuit, the two parties had been in a business
relationship whereby i2M supplied CSI with swimming pool
liner vinyl, CSI printed patterns on the vinyl, and then i2M
sold the printed liners to third party customers.
(Id.). i2M's Complaint alleged that CSI
infringed on several copyrighted patterns owned by i2M and
that CSI's printing practices caused seam separation and
fading issues with respect to the vinyl. (Id.).
close of discovery, i2M filed a Motion for Issuance of an
Adverse Inference Instruction. (Doc. 54). After the parties
fully briefed the Motion, the Court referred it, along with
two pending motions for summary judgment, to Magistrate Judge
Carlson. On November 15, 2016, Magistrate Judge Carlson then
issued an Order which denied i2M's Motion for Issuance of
an Adverse Inference Instruction as premature. (Doc. 88). The
denial, however, was without prejudice to i2M's right to
renew the motion before this Court after the pending summary
judgment motions had been resolved. (Id.).
Thereafter, Magistrate Judge Carlson issued two Report and
Recommendations on the pending motions for summary judgment.
April 13, 2017, after this Court reviewed the two Report and
Recommendations and issued rulings on the parties'
summary judgment motions, i2M filed a "Motion and Brief
seeking leave to renew its Motion for Issuance of an Adverse
Inference Instruction. (Doc. 116). Specifically, i2M's
Motion asked this Court to return the Motion for Issuance of
an Adverse Inference Instruction to the active docket and
treat it as fully briefed and ripe for decision.
(Id.). CSI did not concur with i2M's motion.
11, 2017, CSI filed a Motion to Strike i2M's Motion to
Renew arguing that because i2M never filed a brief in support
of its Motion to Renew, that motion should be deemed
withdrawn pursuant to Local Rule 7.5. (Doc. 125). The parties
thereafter fully briefed CSI's Motion. (Docs. 126, 127,
7.5 of the Local Rules of Court for the Middle District of
Pennsylvania ("Local Rules") provides
Within fourteen (14) days after the filing of any motion, the
party filing the motion shall file a brief in support of the
motion. If the motion seeks a protective order, a supporting
brief shall be filed with the motion. If a supporting brief
is not filed within the time provided in this rule the motion
shall be deemed to be withdrawn. A brief shall not be
required: (a) In support of a motion for enlargement of time
if the reasons for the request are fully stated in the
motion, (b) In support of any motion which has concurrence of
all parties, and the reasons for the motion and the relief
sought are fully stated therein, or (c) In support of a
motion for appointment of counsel.
i2M maintains that it did comply with this rule by filing a
"combined motion and brief, " Local Rule 5.1(h)
provides that "[e]ach motion and each brief shall be a
separate document." Thus, CSI is correct that i2M did
not comply with the Local Rules when i2M failed to submit a
separate brief in support of its Motion to Renew. Further,
i2M's noncompliance is especially troubling considering
that both Magistrate Judge Carlson and this Court have
previously admonished i2M's counsel for failing to follow
the Local Rules. (Doc. 96 at 2, 8-9; Doc. 105; Doc. 107 at
"[i]t is almost axiomatic that decisions on the merits
are not to be avoided on grounds of technical violations of
procedural rules." Poionski v. Trump Taj
Mahal Assocs., 137 F.3d 139, 144 (3d Cir. 1998). i2M
submitted and fully briefed its Motion for an Motion for an
Adverse Inference Instruction. Although it was denied as
premature, that denial was without prejudice to i2M's
right to refile the Motion at the appropriate time. (Doc.
88). Although i2M's counsel violated the Local Rules by
not submitting a separate brief in support of its Motion to
Renew its Motion for an Adverse Inference Instruction, such
violation in this case is merely technical. Given that
Magistrate Judge Carlson's Order gave i2M the right to
renew its Motion after the summary judgment motions had been
ruled upon, this Court is not aware of any grounds-and CSI
has not brought any to this Court's attention-on which
this Court would have denied i2M's Motion to Renew had it
been fully briefed. Thus, the lack of proper briefing in no
way harmed either party or harmed the Court's ability to
evaluate the Motion. Accordingly, the Court will not deny i2M
the opportunity to have its Motion for an Adverse Inference
Instruction fully evaluated on its merits due to i2M's
failure to comply with the Local Rules. Of. Torres v.
Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. 312, 316-17, 108 S.Ct.
2405, 101 L.Ed.2d 285 (1988) (“[I]f a litigant files
papers in a fashion that is technically at variance with the
letter of a procedural rule, a court may nonetheless find
that the litigant has complied with the rule if the
litigant's action is the functional equivalent of what
the rule requires.").