In Thornton v. DaVita HealthCare Partners., Inc., No. 13-cv-00573-RBJ-KMT, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145458 (D. Colo. Oct. 8, 2013), the plaintiffs filed a class action alleging various causes of action in the wake of a recall of certain brands of dialysis equipment. The case grew rapidly, and eventually involved several consolidated complaints.
The defendants filed a comprehensive motion to dismiss. With it, they filed a motion to stay the litigation until the court had decided the dispositive motion. Motions to stay do not always get traction with courts; they're often viewed as merely a delaying tactic. This time, however, the court granted the motion. And its opinion could be of great use to class action defendants.
The court began by noting that its policy was not to favor motions to stay. Nonetheless, when evaluated against the criteria for granting a motion to stay, the litigation clearly merited a pause while the court decided the defendant's motion to dismiss.
When exercising its discretion in evaluating a request for a stay of discovery, the Court considers the following factors: (1) the interest of the plaintiff in proceeding expeditiously with discovery and the potential prejudice to the plaintiff of a delay; (2) the burden on the defendants of proceeding with discovery; (3) the convenience to the Court of staying discovery; (4) the interests of nonparties in either staying or proceeding with discovery; and (5) the public interest in either staying or proceeding with discovery.
As the court noted, the large demands of this class action (which involved twelve plaintiffs across ten different states) would require burdensome discovery. That was reason enough for it to grant the motion. As it found:
Though the ordinary burdens associated with litigating a case do not constitute undue burden, the court finds that requiring Defendant to comply with Plaintiff's potentially 150 discovery requests and to proceed with potentially more than forty depositions while a Motion to Dismiss is pending would impose on Defendant more than the ordinary burdens of litigation.
(Internal citation omitted.)
The court also found that it would be more convenient for itself if a stay were granted.
The court takes no position as to the merits of the motion. Nevertheless, it is clear that should the pending motion be granted, this court will have expended resources managing a complex class action suit unnecessarily in the absence of a stay.
The most important feature of this opinion from a defense perspective is that this was not necessarily that large a class action. It involved ten plaintiffs and twelve different states. Many multi-state class actions are far larger, and involve similarly complex issues.
In fact, most class actions are large and complex endeavors, and courts are institutions facing (in the current political environment) ever-diminishing resources. Under these circumstances, it makes perfect sense to request a stay of discovery when filing a full-scale motion to dismiss. It never hurts, however, to describe the burdens everyone will face as specifically and concretely as possible.