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Wilson v. BNSF Railway Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 19, 2014

KEVIN D. WILSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE

GREG KAYS, Chief District Judge.

This case arises from an auto collision in February 2012 in which Plaintiff Kevin D. Wilson, Jr. was allegedly struck and injured by an employee of Defendant BNSF Railway Company. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice (Doc. 20) and Defendant's Suggestions in Opposition (Doc. 27). Because Plaintiff has proffered a credible reason to dismiss and this case is at an early stage in the litigation, the Court grants Plaintiff dismissal without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). However, since Plaintiff's inattention to this case has caused the Defendant to incur some otherwise avoidable expenses, the Court orders Plaintiff to reimburse Defendant for these expenses.

Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff initially filed this case in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri in August 2013. Defendant removed the case to federal court later that same month, invoking the Court's diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332. Plaintiff did not take any additional action until the end of January 2014.

From August 2013 to January 2014, Plaintiff failed to draft a Joint Proposed Scheduling Order/Discovery Plan, as required by Local Rule 16.1(d). Plaintiff also repeatedly failed to communicate with Defendant when it took the lead in developing the scheduling order. Additionally, Plaintiff did not submit a required mediation statement, nor did he attend a mandatory Mediation and Assessment Program meeting in early January 2014. In response to Plaintiff's inactivity, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice, for failure to prosecute.

Upon learning of Defendant's motion, Plaintiff re-engaged in the case. In subsequent filings with this Court, Plaintiff explained-without supporting evidence-that the delay and inaction was the result of misunderstanding as "Plaintiff's previous counsel believed that Plaintiff had retained new counsel prior to that transition actually occurring" (Doc. 22 at 2).

After many filings from each party, Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). In his motion, Plaintiff stated his intention to add the employee driver as a defendant, thereby precluding diversity jurisdiction. To streamline the process, Plaintiff sought to dismiss the case without prejudice and refile in state court.

Standard of Review

The district court has discretion to allow a voluntary dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). Hamm v. Rhone-Poulenc Rohrer Pharm., 187 F.3d 941, 950 (8th Cir. 1999). In weighing that discretion, the court considers a number of factors, including whether the plaintiff has presented a proper explanation for the dismissal, whether a dismissal would waste judicial time and effort, and whether a dismissal would prejudice the defendant. Id.

Under Rule 41(a)(2), the district court may also dismiss a case subject to any terms and conditions it deems proper. In addition to imposing other conditions, the court can require the plaintiff to pay the defendant's costs and attorney fees. Belle-Midwest, Inc. v. Mo. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Guar. Ass'n, 56 F.3d 977, 978-79 (8th Cir. 1995). The court has authority to award such costs, even if a case is dismissed without prejudice. Sequa Corp. v. Cooper, 245 F.3d 1036, 1037 (8th Cir. 2001) (per curiam).

Generally, in the event of dismissal, the defendant may only recover costs and attorney fees for work that cannot be used in future litigation of the claims. Westlands Water Dist. v. U.S., 100 F.3d 94, 97 (9th Cir. 1996). Additionally, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(f), the court can also require the plaintiff to pay for any expenses the defendant incurs as a result of the plaintiff's noncompliance with pretrial schedules and orders.

Discussion

There are two issues here, (1) whether the Court should grant Plaintiff's motion to dismiss, and (2) whether Plaintiff ...


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