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United States v. 14.3 Acres of Land

January 30, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
14.3 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, SITUATED IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY, STATE OF CALIFORNIA; TIMOTHY LICHTY AND CHERYL LEE LICHTY, CO-TRUSTEES OF THE TIM AND SHERRY LICHTY FAMILY TRUST DATED OCTOBER 24, 1991; AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Nita L. Stormes U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE DEFENDANTS' EXPERTS' REPORTS AND EXCLUDE RELATED TESTIMONY

[Doc. No. 75]

Before the Court in the above-captioned matter is Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude: 1) the Expert Designation of Deborah Rosenthal; 2) the Expert Report and expert testimony of Deborah Rosenthal; and 3) the Supplemental Expert Report of Jeffrey Kauttu. (Doc. No. 75). Plaintiff requests that the Court find good cause to impose evidentiary sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c) against Defendants for alleged violations of court-imposed deadlines and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing the exchange of expert reports. Defendants filed an opposition to the motion [Doc. No. 76], and Plaintiff filed a reply (Doc. No. 77). The Court vacated the January 30, 2009 hearing date and now decides the motion on the papers submitted. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises from the condemnation of 14.3 acres of land adjacent to the United States -- Mexico border. On May 16, 2007, the United States government (Plaintiff in this case, hereafter "Government"), acting under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security Act, 6 U.S.C. §§ 111, 202, 251, and 557, took possession of Defendants Timothy and Cheryl Lichty's (hereafter "Defendants") property in south San Diego County. (See Decl'n. of Taking, Doc. No. 3, Schedules "A" and "C" attached.) The acquisition occurred due to the proximity of Defendants' land to the Mexican border and its categorization as land for public use in connection with the Multi-Tiered Fence Project in San Diego County, California, commonly referred to as the Border Fence project. (Id.) At the time of filing the Declaration of Taking, the government deposited into the Registry of this Court the amount of Three Hundred Fifty-Eight Thousand Dollars ($358,000.00) as estimated just compensation for Defendants' condemned property. (See Joint Motion for Disbursement of Funds, Doc. No. 6.) On October 17, 2008, the Government deposited supplemental estimated just compensation for taking the estate condemned, in the amount of Seven Hundred Eighty-Seven Thousand Dollars ($787,000.00.) (Doc. No. 50.) Defendants do not challenge the statutory authority for the taking. The sole issue in this case is whether the previously disbursed funds constitute just compensation for the

The discovery period in this case began in September 2007 and closed on August 1, 2008. The parties focused their discovery efforts primarily on obtaining documentation and expert opinions regarding the fair market value of Defendants' land on the date of the taking. In November 2007, the Court issued a Scheduling Order setting discovery deadlines and other pretrial proceedings. (See Court's November 7, 2007 Scheduling Order, Doc. No. 14.) The instant motion concerns the deadlines set for the exchange of expert disclosures. Paragraph 3 of the Scheduling Order provides as follows:

Defendants' expert disclosures required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2) shall be served on all parties on or before January 31, 2008. Plaintiff's expert disclosures required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2) shall be served on all parties on or before April 30, 2008.

Any contradictory or rebuttal information shall be disclosed on or before May 30, 2008. (Emphasis in original). This paragraph also references the duty to supplement expert disclosures pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(e) and 26(a)(3) prior to the December 1, 2008 deadline set for pretrial disclosures, and emphasizes that failure to comply with these deadlines may result in the sanctions provided for by Rule 37, including the exclusion of evidence. (Id.)

Defendants designated Ms. Deborah Rosenthal ("Rosenthal") on November 28, 2008. On December 19, 2008, Defendants issued a supplemental report of expert witness Jeffery Kauttu ("Kauttu"). The Government asserts that Defendants' designation of Rosenthal as an expert witness was untimely and seeks an order excluding her expert report and expert testimony. The Government also asserts that Kauttu's supplemental report is untimely and should be excluded.

Defendants oppose the motion, arguing that Rosenthal's report was necessary in response to a supplemental report issued by Government expert Nancy Lucast ("Lucast") containing new opinions. Defendants also argue that the Kauttu supplemental report was submitted in accordance with Rule 26(e) as part of the continuing duty of parties to supplement their previous expert disclosures. Defendants assert that the Kauttu Supplemental Report was based on new information that, despite their best efforts, Defendants could not obtain until three days before the Final Pretrial Conference.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs the disclosure of expert testimony. Rule 26(a)(2) provides that a party must disclose to other parties "the identity of all expert witnesses who may be used at trial to present evidence under Rules 702, 703, or 705 of the Federal Rules of Evidence." Rule 26 Unless as otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, this disclosure must be accompanied by a written report-- prepared and signed by the witness.... The report must contain a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B). With respect to the timing of expert disclosures, Rule 26(a)(2)(C) provides that: "A party must make these disclosures at the times and in the sequence that the court orders." Rule 26(e)(2) governs the supplementation of expert reports. It provides, in pertinent part:

For an expert whose report must be disclosed under Rule 26(a)(2)(B), the party's duty to supplement extends both to information included in the report and to information given during the expert's deposition. Any additions or changes to this information must be disclosed by the time the party's pretrial disclosures under Rule 26(a)(3) are due.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e)(2). "Although Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e) requires a party to 'supplement or correct' a disclosure upon information later acquired, that provision does not give license to sandbag one's opponent with claims and issues which should have been included in the expert witness' report...." Lindner v. Meadow Gold Dairies, Inc., 249 F.R.D. 625, 635 (D. Haw. 2008) quoting Beller ex rel. Beller v. United States, 221 F.R.D. 689, 695 (D.N.M. 2003) (citation omitted).

Parties who run afoul of Rule 26 may face sanctions as specified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, which provides in relevant part:

If a party fails to provide information or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a) or

(e), the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1). The exclusion sanction is "self-executing" and "automatic." Yeti by Molly Ltd. v. Deckers Outdoor Corp., 259 F.3d 1101, 1106 (9th Cir. 2001) (referencing the Advisory Committee's Notes to Rule 37(c)(1) (1993 Amendments)). However, "[t]wo express exceptions ameliorate the harshness of Rule 37(c)(1): The information may be introduced if the party can prove that its failure to disclose the required information is substantially justified or harmless." Id. at 106-07 ("Implicit in Rule 37(c)(1) is that the burden is on the party facing sanctions to prove harmlessness.") The Ninth Circuit "give[s] particularly wide latitude to the district court's discretion to issue sanctions under Rule 37(c)(1)." Id. The following factors are used to guide the court's discretion: "1) the public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; 2) the court's need to manage its ...


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