Judge: Michael E. Whitaker, Case: 20STCV26313, Date: 2022-08-01 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 20STCV26313    Hearing Date: August 1, 2022    Dept: 32

PLEASE NOTE:   Parties are encouraged to meet and confer concerning this tentative ruling to determine if a resolution may be reached.  If the parties are unable to reach a resolution and a party intends to submit on this tentative ruling, the party must send an email to the Court at sscdept32@lacourt.org indicating that party’s intention to submit.  The email shall include the case number, date and time of the hearing, counsel’s contact information (if applicable), and the identity of the party submitting on this tentative ruling.  If the Court does not receive an email indicating the parties are submitting on this tentative ruling and there are no appearances at the hearing, the Court may place the motion off calendar or adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court.  If all parties do not submit on this tentative ruling, they should arrange to appear in-person or remotely (which is highly encouraged).  Further, after the Court has posted/issued a tentative ruling, the Court has the inherent authority to prohibit the withdrawal of the subject motion and adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court. 

 

TENTATIVE RULING

 

DEPARTMENT

32

HEARING DATE

August 1, 2022

CASE NUMBER

20STCV26313

MOTION

Motion to Reopen Discovery and Continue Trial

MOVING PARTIES

Defendants Southwest Transportation, Inc. and Hakop Jack Kzlegzyan

OPPOSING PARTY

Plaintiff Stephanie Allison Hannegan

 

MOTION

 

Plaintiff Stephanie Allison Hannegan sued defendants Southwest Transportation, Inc. and Hakop Jack Kzlegzyan (collectively, “Defendants”) based on a motor vehicle collision.  Defendants moves to re-open discovery and continue trial to permit Defendants the opportunity to complete additional fact discovery related to Plaintiff’s claimed injuries and damages.  Plaintiff opposes the motion.

 

ANALYSIS

 

Trial is currently set for September 30, 2022, which the Court set pursuant to Defendants’ ex parte application to re-open discovery.  (See June 14, 2022 Minute Order.)  The fact discovery cutoff of June 20, 2022, and the expert discovery cutoff of July 5, 2022, are based on the prior July 18, 2022 trial date.  (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2024.020, subd. (a), 2024.030, 2016.060; see June 14, 2022 Minute Order.)

 

In determining whether to reopen discovery, the court must consider the necessity of and reasons for the additional discovery, the diligence or lack thereof by the party seeking to reopen discovery in attempting to complete discovery prior to the cutoff, whether permitting the discovery will prevent the case from going forward on the trial date or will otherwise prejudice any party, and any past continuances of the trial date.  (See Code Civ. Proc., § 2024.050, subd. (b).)

 

Here, Defendants seek to reopen discovery to further investigate the extent of Plaintiff’s claimed injuries and damages due to a subsequent motor vehicle collision and Plaintiff’s prior work history that Plaintiff did not previously disclose.  Defendants argue additional discovery is necessary based on these recent revelations because the subsequent motor vehicle collision could prove to be a relevant factor with respect to the extent of Plaintiff’s claimed injuries, and Plaintiff’s prior work history in the adult film industry, insofar as it is physically demanding, could negate the extent of Plaintiff’s claimed injuries.  Defendants also advance the declaration of Paul Kaloostian, M.D. (“Kaloostian”), who has examined Plaintiff in connection with this litigation on January 22, 2021.  Kaloostian avers that he was not informed of Plaintiff’s work history in the adult film industry, which would have been critical to his opinions in this case.  (Declaration of Paul Kaloostian, M.D., ¶ 4.)  Kaloostian states that had he known that Plaintiff had been working as an entertainer in adult films for the past ten years, he would have opined that such work involves physical demands on the body that could have led to the condition of the spine that Plaintiff claims was injured as a result of the subject motor vehicle collision.  (Ibid.)

 

In opposition, Plaintiff argues Defendants have failed to show good cause to reopen discovery.  Plaintiff advances the declaration of Andrew Fox, M.D. (“Fox”), who is Plaintiff’s designated neurosurgical expert.  Fox avers that his opinion that Plaintiff’s claimed massive disc herniation was caused by the subject collision was based on a number of factors including: (i) the circumstances of the collision; (ii) the fact that Plaintiff sought treatment for low back complaints the same day; (iii) the course of Plaintiff’s medical treatment thereafter; (iv) the diagnostic MRI studies that reflected a massive disc herniation following the crash; (v) the absence of any past medical treatment such as physical therapy related to the lower back as well as the absence of any prior diagnostic studies concerning the lumbar spine; and (vi) the corroborating opinions of Plaintiff’s biomechanical and accident reconstruction experts.  (Declaration of Andrew Fox, M.D., ¶ 4.) 

 

Plaintiff also advances her own declaration.  Plaintiff states that she has not engaged in any adult film work subsequent to the subject collision on December 9, 2019.  (Declaration of Stephanie Hannegan, ¶ 2.)  Plaintiff avers that none of the filming associated with any films released after the collision occurred after December 9, 2019.  (Ibid.)  Plaintiff also states that the subsequent auto collision at issue, which occurred in a parking lot on December 10, 2021, involved no injuries.  (Declaration of Stephanie Hannegan, ¶ 6.)  Plaintiff avers she made a claim to her insurance carrier to repair a paint scrape to her car, but did not suffer any injuries or seek medical treatment for that incident.  (Ibid.)  In her motion, Plaintiff represents that she hit a parked car in the parking lot.

 

The Court notes that it is unclear from the papers how or when Defendants first learned of Plaintiff’s work history that they now claim is relevant to the case.  According to counsel for Plaintiff, Defendants had knowledge of this work history as early as March 2022, at which time counsel for Defendants had purportedly agreed to stipulate to precluding evidence of said work history at trial.  (Declaration of Aaron Turchin, ¶ 7.)  In any event, the Court finds that Kaloostian’s representation that disclosure of Plaintiff’s work history would have been consequential to his evaluation of Plaintiff’s claimed injuries and ultimate opinion, the Court finds Defendants have shown good cause for reopening discovery for the purposes of investigating to what extent, if any, Plaintiff’s prior work history may have caused or contributed to her alleged injuries in this case.  Based on Plaintiff’s representations concerning the minimal and injury-free nature of the subsequent incident in the parking lot on December 10, 2021, and absent a showing from Defendants otherwise, the Court finds Defendants have failed to establish good cause to reopen discovery into that collision. 

 

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

 

Therefore, the Court grants in part Defendants’ motion to reopen discovery (non-expert and expert) for the limited purpose of determining whether Plaintiff’s work history in the adult film industry may have caused or contributed to her claimed injuries in this action. 

 

To facilitate the completion of the limited discovery as ordered herein, the Court orders the trial continued to November 28, 2022 at 8:30 A.M. and the final status conference continued to November 14, 2022 at 10:00 A.M. in Department 32.  The Court further orders that all discovery remains closed except as provided in this ruling and the pre-trial motion cut off remains in effect. 

 

Defendants shall give notice of the Court’s ruling, and file a proof of service of such.