United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the Court on defendant's motion to
stay proceedings. [DE 11]. The motion has been fully briefed
and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow,
defendant's motion to stay proceedings [DE 11] is denied.
initiated this action in June 2019. [DE 1]. Plaintiff alleges
that he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from November 1978 to
January 1984. [DE 13, ¶ 12]. He alleges that he was
stationed at Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina,
from 1979 to 1981 and from 1983 to 1984. Id. ¶
13. While stationed at Camp Lejeune, plaintiff and his wife,
Ms. Rhoda Renee Bell, consumed drinking water that plaintiff
alleges was contaminated. Id. ¶¶ 14, 19.
In September 1980 and March 1981, plaintiffs wife had
"two spontaneous abortions, also known as
miscarriages." Id. ¶ 15. Additionally, in
February 1982, plaintiffs son was born at Pitt County
Memorial Hospital, but survived for only 32 minutes.
Id. ¶¶ 16-18.
2010, if not earlier plaintiff filed an administrative claim
to the Department of the Navy, alleging that he and his
family were exposed to contaminated drinking water while at
Camp Lejeune and requesting $100 million for the wrongful
death of his son. Id. ¶¶ 22-39. Plaintiffs
administrative claim remained pending until January 2019, at
which time the claim was denied. Id. ¶ 40.
Plaintiff then initiated this action.
2019, defendant moved to stay proceedings pending a decision
by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on
the government's motion to transfer a half-dozen cases-
including this one-pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. [DE
11]. Plaintiff has responded in opposition to a stay. [DE
district court has inherent authority to manage its docket to
promote "economy of time and effort for itself, counsel,
and for litigants." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299
U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936). When determining whether to stay
proceedings, a district court generally considers "(1)
the interests of judicial economy; (2) hardship and equity to
the moving party if the action is not stayed; and (3)
potential prejudice to the non-moving party."
Johnson v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., No.
3:12-CV-2274-JFA, 2012 WL 4538642, at *2 (D.S.C. Oct. 1,
2012) (citation omitted). "The party seeking a stay must
justify it by clear and convincing circumstances outweighing
potential harm to the party against whom it is
operative." Williford v. Armstrong World Indus.,
Inc., 715 F.2d 124, 127 (4th Cir. 1983).
considered the relevant factors, the Court concludes that a
stay of this matter is not warranted. Defendant requests a
stay while the JPML considers a motion to transfer this case,
and others, to the Northern District of Georgia. But the
filing of a transfer motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1407
before the JPML does not deprive this Court of jurisdiction.
See In re Air Crash Disaster at Paris, France, 376
F.Supp. 887, 888 (J.P.M.L. 1974) (citation omitted)
("The mere pendency of a motion before the Panel does
not affect or suspend orders and discovery proceedings in the
transferor court and does not in any way limit the
jurisdiction of the transferor court to rule upon matters
properly presented to it for decision."). Here, to the
extent that the interests of judicial economy favor
defendant, those interests are slight given the posture of
this action and the uncertainty of a possible transfer to the
Northern District of Georgia. Additionally, the hardship
imposed on the government by having to litigate in the
Eastern District of North Carolina, which encompasses Camp
LeJeune and where the operative events in this action
allegedly occurred, rather than in the Northern District of
Georgia (if, and only if, the transfer motion is granted by
the JPML), is minimal.
government's interests and the interests of judicial
economy are outweighed, in any event, by the prejudice that
plaintiff would suffer if the action were to be stayed.
Although the government argues that "a stay will not
present any significant prejudice to the non-moving party
because this case is in its early stages," plaintiff has
been pursuing his claims for at least nine years. [DE 11, p.
7]. It is unclear how quickly the JPML could grant the
transfer motion, but a hearing has been set for September 26,
2019. See Upcoming MDL Hearing Sessions,
visited August 23, 2019). Plaintiff has a significant
interest in litigating his claims in his chosen forum, where
Camp Lejeune is located and where the operative events
occurred, until the JMPL determines otherwise.
the Court finds that defendant has not demonstrated, by clear
and convincing circumstances, that its interests and the
interests of judicial economy outweigh the potential harm to
plaintiff if the proceedings are stayed. Thus, the Court, in
its discretion, declines to stay the proceedings pending the
JPML's resolution of the pending § 1407 transfer
motion. Defendant's motion to stay proceedings is denied.
above reasons, defendant's motion to stay ...