United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court pursuant to Relator Sunil
Patel's construed Motion for a 90-day extension of time
to secure counsel (Doc. # 111), which was filed on July 20,
2018. GE Healthcare, Inc. filed a response to the Motion
(Doc. # 112) on July 23, 2018. The Court denies the Motion.
initiated this False Claims Act case on January 17, 2014.
(Doc. # 1). He filed the First Amended Complaint (Doc. # 11)
on May 6, 2015, the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 17) on
March 9, 2016, the Third Amended Complaint (Doc. # 73) on
August 16, 2017, and the Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. # 84)
on October 26, 2017.
stay of the case was lifted on March 27, 2017. (Doc. # 24).
The Court held a Case Management Hearing as well as a
Discovery Hearing on July 17, 2017, and the Court entered a
Case Management and Scheduling Order and a Discovery Order on
that date. (Doc. ## 62, 64).
filed a Motion to Dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint, and
on April 15, 2018, the Court entered an Order setting a
hearing on the Motion to Dismiss to occur on April 20, 2018.
(Doc. # 99). Shortly thereafter, on April 16, 2018,
Relator's counsel filed a Motion seeking to
“immediately withdraw as counsel for Relator.”
(Doc. # 100). Among other statements, Relator's counsel
explained that Relator terminated the legal representation on
April 12, 2018. (Id. at 2). In addition,
Relator's counsel indicated: “continued litigation
of Relator Patel's FCA claims could well expose
undersigned counsel to personal liability for GE's
attorneys' fees, costs and expenses under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1927, as well as expose Relator Patel to personal
liability for GE's attorneys' fees and expenses under
31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(4).” (Id.).
solely to suggest, should the Court grant the Motion, that
its Order provide Relator a deadline by which successor
counsel must file a notice of appearance herein, failing
which this action will be dismissed without prejudice to the
United States and the Relator. The United States makes this
request because the Relator cannot proceed pro se. See
Timson v. Sampson, 518 F.3d 870, 873-74 (11th Cir.
2008)(per curiam)(holding that a Relator cannot proceed pro
se in litigating a qui tam action under the False Claims
(Doc. # 102).
hearing held on April 20, 2018, the Court granted the Motion
to Withdraw. (Doc. # 107). Patel argued that he needed 90
days in order to secure a new attorney, and GE argued that
only two weeks should be granted for Patel to hire substitute
counsel. (Doc. # 109 at 17, 28). Ultimately, the Court
granted Relator the full 90-days requested, stating:
“I'll give you 90 days to find a new lawyer.
I'm not going to give you more than 90 days. I will give
you up to 90 days.” (Id. at 29). The Court
further warned: “I am not extending that deadline.
I'm telling you right now, Mr. Patel. No. way am I
extending that deadline. They said two weeks and I'm
giving you 90 days because I know the challenges. So please
do not ask for an extension. If you do, the answer is going
to be no.” (Id. at 31). The Court made it
clear: “If I don't have a notice of appearance
filed by July 20th, on that following Monday I
will do an Order dismissing this case.” (Id.).
The Court indicated that if the case were to be dismissed, it
would allow counsel to weigh in on whether that dismissal
would be without prejudice to the rights of the United
States. (Id. at 31).
20, 2018, rather than supplying the Court with a Notice of
Appearance showing that he secured substitute counsel, Patel
filed an extension Motion. (Doc. # 111). The Court
“must take an active role in managing cases on [its]
docket” and enjoys broad discretion “in deciding
how best to manage the cases before [it].”
Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1366
(11th Cir. 1997). The Court has already provided an ample and
finite opportunity for Patel to secure counsel and he has not
done so. Because the Court has already determined that no
further extensions will be authorized, the Court denies the
noted, the Court previously indicated that it would allow
counsel to weigh in on the matter of whether the dismissal
should be without prejudice. (Doc. # 109 at 31). At this
point, the Court requests that the United States and GE file
a Notice by July 30, 2018, stating whether
the action should be dismissed without prejudice to the
rights of the Government and/or Patel.
it is hereby
ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
Relator Sunil Patel's construed Motion for an Extension
of Time to secure ...