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Compagnie Des Grands Hotels D'Afrique S.A. v. Starwood Capital Group Global I LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 27, 2019





         The present action concerns an enforcement of a foreign arbitration award arising from an alleged breach of a management contract for a luxury hotel in Morocco. (D.I. 1) Plaintiff Compagnie des Grands Hotels d'Afrique S.A. ("CGHA") filed a motion to extend the deadline for amending pleadings and joining parties in the scheduling order.[1] (D.I. 125) Defendant Starman Hotel Holdings LLC ("Starman")[2] opposes any extension. (D.I. 128) For the reasons that follow, the court DENIES plaintiffs motion without prejudice.


         a. Factual and Procedural History

         The breach of contract matter was arbitrated before the ICC International Court of Arbitration in London, England (the "ICC"). On May 6, 2015, the ICC issued an Arbitration Award against Woodman Maroc S.a.r.l. ("Woodman"), a former subsidiary of defendant. (D.I. 1 at ¶¶ 58, 73) A thorough recitation of the factual background of this action is included in Judge Andrews' Memorandum Order, issued on July 15, 2019. (D.I. 103)

         The instant litigation was filed by plaintiff on April 30, 2018 against Starman and Starwood, one of Starman's indirect corporate parents. (D.I. 1) The complaint initially alleged that Starman and Starwood were liable for payment of the arbitration award based upon an agency theory. (Id.) By Order of January 9, 2019, the court dismissed the agency claim against Starman and Starwood. (D.I. 38) Consequently, the only claim remaining is based upon an alter ego theory of liability asserted against the only remaining defendant, Starman.

         The court held a scheduling conference on March 5, 2019 and entered the scheduling order on March 12, 2019, which included a September 30, 2019 deadline for amending pleadings and joining other parties. (D.I. 48) On September 13, 2019, plaintiff filed the present motion to amend the scheduling order, limited to a request for an extension of the date for amendment of pleadings and joinder from September 30, 2019 to January 31, 2020. (D.I. 125)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 governs pretrial management and scheduling orders. Under Rule 16(b)(4), a scheduling order "may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent." Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The burden is on the moving party to "demonstrate good cause and due diligence." Race Tires America, Inc. v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., 614 F.3d 57, 84 (3d Cir. 2010). Good causes exists "when the schedule cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension." Dickerson v. KeyPoint Gov't Sols., Inc., C.A. No. 16-657-RGA-MPT, 2017 WL 2457457, at *4 (D. Del. June 7, 2017). This good cause standard under Rule 16(b) "turns on the diligence of the movant." Id. In its considerations, the court should remain cognizant that "scheduling orders are at the heart of case management. If they can be disregarded without a specific showing of good cause, their utility would be severely impaired." Koplove v. Ford Motor Co., 795 F.2d 15, 18 (3d Cir. 1986). In any event, however, the court retains authority to modify case schedules to entertain motions resolving questions of law concerning which the facts are undisputed in order to "secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding." Fed.R.Civ.P. 1.


         CGHA argues that good cause exists to modify the deadline to amend the pleadings for three reasons: (1) CGHA has diligently pursued the deposition of non-party Mr. Sternlicht, (2) CGHA has diligently pursued foreign discovery, and (3) CGHA is diligently reviewing productions from Starman, Starwood, and Lehman. (D.I. 125 at 6-8)

         a. Deposition of Mr. Sternlicht

          CGHA argues that it has diligently pursued the deposition of Barry Sternlicht[3] ("Mr. Sternlicht"), a key non-party witness. (Id. at 6) CGHA served the Sternlicht subpoena on July 23, 2019, setting a deposition date of August 14, 2019. (Id; D.I. 107, Ex. 1) Mr. Sternlicht, a resident of Connecticut, opposed the subpoena on the basis that such testimony would be "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or [could] be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive." (D.I. 128 at 4-5) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i)) On September 4, 2019, CGHA filed a motion to compel Mr. Sternlicht's compliance with the deposition subpoena in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. (D.I. 125, Ex. B) CGHA estimates that Mr. Sternlicht's deposition will not likely occur before November 2019, as the District Court of Connecticut has not issued a decision ...

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