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New York Life Insurance Co. v. Morales

July 1, 2008

NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILDEFONSO MORALES, ALICIA A. RUIZ DE MORALES AND JUAN JAVIER LOPEZ, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara L. Major United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT LOPEZ' MOTION REQUESTING REOPENING OF DISCOVERY IN ORDER TO DEPOSE THE MORALES DEFENDANTS' PROPOSED TRIAL WITNESSES [Doc. No. 126]

On June 9, 2008, Defendant Lopez filed a motion entitled "Motion Requesting Reopening of Discovery in Order to Depose the Morales Defendants' Proposed Trial Witnesses." Doc. No. 126 ("Lopez Mot."). The Morales Defendants filed a timely opposition on June 19, 2008. Doc. No. 128 ("Morales Opp'n"). Thereafter, the Court took the matter under submission pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Doc. No. 129.

Having reviewed the briefing submitted, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant Lopez' motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

This interpleader action was filed on May 10, 2006, in order to determine the proper beneficiary of life insurance proceeds from a policy on the life of Maria F. Lopez ("the decedent"). See Doc. No. 1. The policy named the decedent's spouse, Defendant Juan Javier Lopez, as the sole beneficiary. Id. ¶ 7. However, before Plaintiff New York Life Insurance Company became aware of the decedent's passing and any potential claims to the insurance proceeds, Defendant Lopez was convicted by a Mexican court of murdering his wife. Id. ¶ 8. Defendant Lopez remains incarcerated in Mexico as a result of this conviction. Id.

In light of California Probate Code § 252, which prohibits a killer from collecting the proceeds of a life insurance policy on the life of his victim, Plaintiff believed that the decedent's parents, Ildefonso Morales and Alicia A. Ruiz de Morales, might claim the insurance proceeds as the decedent's surviving heirs. Id.

¶ 11. Given the Defendants' conflicting claims to the policy proceeds, Plaintiff filed this action and deposited proceeds totaling $140,197.71 with the Court. Id. ¶ 12. On October 13, 2006, the district judge discharged Plaintiff from the case. Doc. No. 23.

Defendant Lopez and the Morales Defendants pursued their respective claims to the insurance proceeds. On November 17, 2006, this Court issued a scheduling order setting June 18, 2007, as the deadline for completing all discovery in the case. Doc. No. 28. Prior to the close of discovery, the defendants filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Doc. Nos. 26 & 44. On December 10, 2007, the district judge denied both motions for summary judgment and instructed the parties that the case would be set for a bench trial. Doc. No. 89. In the same order, the district judge authorized additional discovery, with deadlines to be set by this Court. Id. For that reason, and based upon all of the defendants' representations regarding how much additional time they would need to conduct discovery, this Court set a new discovery cut-off date of March 21, 2008. Doc. No. 92.

In the motion presently before the Court, Defendant Lopez asks the Court to reopen the discovery period that ended on March 21, 2008, and allow him to conduct three additional depositions. Lopez Mot. at 1-2.

LEGAL STANDARD

Dates set in a scheduling order may be modified "for good cause and with the judge's consent." Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4); Doc. No. 92 (scheduling order stating that dates may be modified for "good cause"). The Rule 16 "good cause" standard focuses on the "reasonable diligence" of the moving party. Noyes v. Kelly Services, 488 F.3d 1163, 1174 n.6 (9th Cir. 2007); Coleman v. Quaker Oats Company, 232 F.3d 1271, 1294 (9th Cir. 2000) (Rule 16(b) scheduling order may be modified for "good cause" based primarily on diligence of moving party). Diligence should not be confused with carelessness, which offers no reason for a grant of relief. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). "If [the moving] party was not diligent, the inquiry should end." Id.

DISCUSSION

Defendant Lopez requests that the Court reopen discovery so that he may depose Defendant Ildefonso Morales and non-parties Claudia Yvette Morales and Jean Carlo Morales. Lopez Mot. at 1. He argues that good cause for his request exists because the Morales Defendants only recently disclosed these three trial witnesses in the joint pretrial order. Id. at 1-2. Because he contends the naming of these three individuals as trial witnesses runs contrary to the Morales Defendants' answers to Defendant Lopez' written discovery, Defendant Lopez submits that he was very surprised by these late disclosures. Id. at 2. Prior to filing the instant motion, Defendant Lopez' counsel attempted to solicit these witnesses' addresses and intended testimony from opposing counsel on an informal basis, but to no avail. Id. at 10-13.

In response, the Morales Defendants assert that Defendant Lopez has known the identities of these individuals for a long time because they were his in-laws. Morales Opp'n at 2. Ildefonso Morales is the father of the decedent, Maria Lopez, and is a named party in this case. Id. Claudia Yvette Morales Serrano and Jean Carlo Morales are the sister and brother, respectively, of the decedent. Id. Additionally, both Claudia Yvette Morales Serrano and Jean Carlo Morales filed declarations in this case on February 9, 2007, as part of the Morales Defendants' opposition to Defendant Lopez' motion for summary judgment. Id. at 2; Doc. Nos. 45-3 & 45-4. In regard to why the Morales Defendants listed these individuals as potential trial witnesses in the proposed pretrial order, the Morales Defendants claim that they listed Ildefonso Morales because attorney Sanchez, who is counsel for Defendant Lopez, refused to admit that Mr. Morales was the decedent's father. Morales Opp'n at 2. The brother and sister were listed in an abundance of caution as impeachment witnesses in order to respond, if necessary, should Defendant Lopez' ...


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