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I.C. v. Polk County School District

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

August 23, 2017

I.C., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian, SUZANNE RIHA, Plaintiff,
POLK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, a Florida Governmental Entity; the SCHOOL BOARD OF POLK COUNTY, a Florida Governmental Entity; OUR CHILDREN'S ACADEMY, Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Stay of Discovery and for Protective Order (Doc. 51), Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Protective Order (Doc. 60), and Defendants' responses thereto (Docs. 52, 54, 62).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, I.C., is a minor child who attended Defendant Our Children's Academy (“OCA”), [1] a Florida charter school for special needs children. Plaintiff is on the autism spectrum and has behavioral and emotional disabilities related to autism. On April 3, 2017, Plaintiff, through his mother, Suzanne Riha, brought suit against Defendants Polk County School District (“School District”), the School Board of Polk County (“School Board”), and OCA. (Doc. 1). Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint (Docs. 22, 29), and Plaintiff filed a proposed order dismissing the Complaint with leave to amend (Doc. 28), which the Court construed as a motion for leave to amend. The Court granted leave to amend, and Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on May 31, 2017. (Docs. 30, 37).

         In response to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Defendants again filed motions to dismiss (Doc. 43, 47), which the Court granted and dismissed the action without prejudice (Doc. 50). Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint on August 3, 2017, against the School Board and OCA. (Doc. 55). Defendants again filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (Docs. 56, 58).

         On August 1, 2017, after the Court granted Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, but before Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed this Motion for Stay of Discovery and for Protective Order. (Doc. 51). On August 3, 2017, Defendants filed their response in opposition to that motion. (Doc. 52). On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Motion for a Protective Order, clarifying the relief sought in the initial motion. (Doc. 60). That same day, Defendants filed a response to the Amended Motion for a Protective Order. (Doc. 62).

         On August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Settlement as to the claims against Defendant OCA. (Doc. 67). The Court has not been notified of any agreements (related to discovery or otherwise) between Plaintiff and Defendant School Board.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff seeks a protective order in response to Defendant OCA's Notice of Taking Deposition of I.C. (Doc. 60). In addition, Plaintiff seeks a general stay of discovery pending resolution of any motions to dismiss. (Doc. 51).

         A. Plaintiff's Request for Stay of Discovery

         When ruling on motions to stay discovery, Courts in this District have held that “[m]otions to [s]tay discovery may be granted pursuant to Rule 26(c), Fed. R. Civ. P., and the moving party bears the burden of showing good cause and reasonableness.” Feldman v. Flood, 176 F.R.D. 651, 652 (M.D. Fla. 1997) (citations omitted).[2] A party shows good cause for a stay of discovery when disposition of a motion could entirely eliminate the need for such discovery. McCabe v. Foley, 233 F.R.D. 683, 685 (M.D. Fla. 2006).

         In support of the request for a stay pending resolution of Defendants' motions to dismiss, Plaintiff cites to Chudasama v. Mazda Corporation, 123 F.3d 1353, 1367 (11th Cir. 1997) for the general proposition that discovery should be stayed until a pending motion to dismiss is resolved. Chudasama, however, states: “[f]acial challenges based on the failure to state a claim for relief, should, however, be resolved before discovery begins.” Id. at 1368. Chudasama does not dictate that all discovery should be stayed pending a decision on a motion to dismiss. Koock v. Sugar & Felsenthal, LLP, No. 8:09-cv-609-T-17EAJ, 2009 WL 2579307 *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 19, 2009). Instead, Chudasama “stand[s] for the much narrower proposition that courts should not delay ruling on a likely meritorious motion to dismiss while undue discovery costs mount.” Schreiber v. Kite King's Lake, LLC, No. 8:09-cv-609-T-17EAJ, 2010 WL 3909717 *1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 1, 2010); Koock, 2009 WL 2579307 at * 2; In re Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 3:04-cv-194-J-33MCR, 2007 WL 1877887 * 1 (M.D. Fla. June 28, 2007).

         Here, even after the settlement-in-principle between Plaintiff and OCA, Defendant School Board's motion to dismiss remains pending for adjudication. (Doc. 58). More specifically, there remains a dispute between Plaintiff and Defendant School Board as to whether Plaintiff has adequately pleaded both federal and state claims against the School Board. Not only is this dispute not an unusual circumstance justifying a stay of discovery, but Plaintiff has not made a specific showing of prejudice or undue burden if the discovery period continues in compliance with the Court's Case Management and Scheduling Order (Doc. 26). Thus, Plaintiff's request for a general stay of discovery is denied.

         B. Plaintiff's Request ...

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