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Estate of Angle Antonio v. Fresno County Sheriff's Department

August 2, 2012

ESTATE OF ANGLE ANTONIO
MENDOZA-SARAVIA, BY AND THROUGH THE ADMINISTRATOR, JOSE MENDOZA-SARAVIA, ET. AL ,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, ET. AL DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO PRECLUDE EXPERT TESTIMONY

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is Defendants County of Fresno, Fresno County Sheriff's Department and City of Mendota's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion to Preclude Plaintiff From Offering Expert Opinion Testimony ("Defendants' Motion"). (Doc. 96.) Plaintiffs Estate of Angel Antonie Mendoza, Jose Mendoza-Saravia and Teresa Reyna Mendoza-Saravia (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed an Opposition on July 13, 2012. (Doc. 97.) Defendants filed a Reply on July 27, 2012. (Doc. 98.) The Court deemed the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and vacated the hearing scheduled for August 3, 2012. (Doc. 100.) Having considered the moving, opposition and reply papers, the declarations and exhibits attached thereto, as well as the Court's file, the Court issues the following Order.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Relevant Factual Background

This is a wrongful death action, arising from a November 26, 2008 incident where Angel Antonio Mendoza-Saravia (the "Decedent") allegedly was shot by a member of the Fresno County Sheriff's department with a beanbag projectile. (Pl.'s Third Amend. Compl., ¶¶ 20-25, Doc. 54.) The Decedent was pronounced dead approximately one hour after being shot with the projectile. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiffs allege the projectile caused Decedent's death. Id. at ¶ 25.

B. Relevant Procedural Background

On May 27, 2011, the Honorable Judge Oliver W. Wanger set a scheduling order in this matter. (Doc. 72.) Relevant to the instant dispute, the parties were required to disclose all expert witnesses no later than April 17, 2012. Id. On April 17, 2012, Defendants served expert disclosures on Plaintiffs. Defendants' disclosures identified one expert, Curtis Coke. On April 18, 2012, Plaintiffs served their expert disclosures which identified one expert, Ron Martinelli. Mr. Martinelli was expected to offer expert testimony regarding the officers' involvement in the incident, the provision of the ammunition, training, and the use of the subject bean bag and related topics.

Following this disclosure, Defendants found Plaintiffs' expert disclosures deficient in two ways: (1) Plaintiffs' expert disclosures did not contain an expert report; and (2) Plaintiffs failed to disclose Mr. Martinelli by the April 17, 2012 deadline and was one day late. On May 3, 2012, the parties participated in an informal telephonic discovery hearing concerning Plaintiffs' request for relief from the scheduling order. (Doc. 87.) Plaintiffs argued the failure was due to a calendaring error, and requested an extension of expert disclosure and discovery deadlines. Defendants opposed. The parties stipulated to allow the Court to decide Plaintiffs' request to modify the scheduling order informally and off the record. (Doc. 87.)

After considering the letter briefs *fn1 and arguments of counsel at the May 3, 2012 hearing, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request for relief from the scheduling order. Specifically, the Court found that "Mr. Martinelli's testimony is critical to Plaintiffs' case. Expert testimony regarding the officers' involvement in the incident, the provision of the ammunition, training, and the use of the subject bean bag and related topics is necessary to establish liability in the instant matter." (Doc. 89, 4: 8-11.) The Court additionally determined that "Plaintiffs' counsel's failure to comply with the scheduling order did not appear to be in bad faith[,]" and the "prejudice to the [] Defendants is slight." (Doc. 89, 4: 11-16.)

In that same Order, the Court modified the Scheduling Order, in pertinent part, as follows:

1. Plaintiffs' Expert Disclosures

Plaintiffs shall serve their expert disclosures no later than May 17, 2012.

2. Plaintiffs' Supplemental Expert Disclosures Plaintiffs shall serve their supplemental expert disclosures no later than June 7, 2012.

3. Defendants' Amended Expert Disclosure Defendants' expert, Curtis Coke, shall have the opportunity to review Plaintiffs' experts' report, and submit an amended expert report no later than June 7, 2012.

4. Defendants' Supplemental Expert Disclosure Defendants shall serve their supplemental expert disclosures ...


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