United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution in this case are (1) a
motion (ECF No. 16) filed by Defendant Santander Consumer USA
(“Defendant”) to strike the answer and
counterclaim filed by Plaintiff Eric English
(“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 15); (2) a motion to amend
its answer and counterclaim, filed by Defendant (ECF No. 17);
(3) two motions to compel discovery information, filed by
Defendant (ECF Nos. 18; 21); (4) a motion to amend the
scheduling order and extend discovery, filed by Plaintiff
(ECF No. 20); and (5) a motion for summary judgment, filed by
Defendant (ECF No. 24). The issues have been briefed, and the
court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local
Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion
to amend its counterclaim, motions to compel, and motion for
summary judgment will be denied. Defendant's motion to
strike will be granted. Plaintiff's motion to amend the
scheduling order will be granted.
provided automobile financing to Plaintiff through Toyota of
Bowie in December 2015. (ECF No. 24, at 1). Plaintiff
contends that he sent a cashier's check to Defendant for
the full remaining amount of his loan on March 19, 2016. (ECF
No. 1 ¶ 1). Defendant maintains that Plaintiff failed to
make a single payment on the loan. (ECF No. 24, at 2). In May
2016, Defendant repossessed Plaintiff's vehicle. (ECF No.
7 ¶ 2).
brought the instant dispute on August 2, alleging that
Defendant stole the cashier's check that he sent,
illegally repossessed his vehicle, and violated the Fair Debt
Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Truth
in Lending Act by continuing to pursue the debt it believed
Plaintiff owed. (ECF No. 1). Defendant filed its answer on
October 20, along with counterclaims for fraud and breach of
contract. (ECF No. 7). The court issued a scheduling order on
October 31, requiring that initial disclosures be served by
November 14 and that all depositions and other discovery be
completed by March 15, 2017. (ECF No. 11). As discussed
below, it appears Plaintiff has failed to provide initial
disclosures or respond to any of Defendant's discovery
Defendant's Motion to Strike
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1) a party is required to “state in
short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted
against it” and to “admit or deny the allegations
asserted against it by an opposing party” in its
answer. In his answer to Defendant's counterclaim,
Plaintiff argues that he is “not legally obligated to
address this claim” because Defendant did not respond
to his debt validation letter in May of 2016, which he
alleges was a violation of the FDCPA. (ECF No. 15, at 1-2).
Any violations of the FDCPA will be resolved on the merits in
this litigation. Although pro se pleadings are
liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard
than pleadings drafted by lawyers, Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), Plaintiff must still
abide by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in this court.
Therefore the court will strike Plaintiff's answer, and
he will be instructed to file a new responsive pleading.
Plaintiff should admit or deny the numbered allegations
Defendant has asserted against him and state his defenses to
Defendant's claims in compliance with Rule
also appears not to have taken part in any discovery.
Defendant has filed a motion to compel Plaintiff to provide
initial disclosures (ECF No. 18) and a motion to compel
Plaintiff to respond to requests for production and
interrogatories (ECF No. 21). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a), a
party may move to compel discovery if the other party (1)
“fails to make a disclosure required by Rule 26(a),
” (2) “fails to answers an interrogatory
submitted under Rule 33, ” or (3) “fails to
produce documents . . . as requested under Rule
34.” Plaintiff responded to Defendant's
motion to compel initial disclosures by arguing that he has
been unable to respond because of a “severe financial
hardship and the lack of monetary resources.” (ECF No.
19, at 1). He has filed a motion to amend the scheduling
order. (ECF No. 20, at 1). A scheduling order may be modified
“for good cause and with the judge's
consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). In Plaintiff's
motion, he further explains that, at the time of the
scheduled discovery, he was unemployed, without a bank
account, and dependent on family to cover his food costs and
other expenses. (ECF No. 20, at 1). He states that he is now
employed, however, and that he intends to provide his initial
disclosures and to seek the advice of an attorney. (ECF Nos.
19, at 2; 20, at 2). In response to Plaintiff's motion to
modify the scheduling order, Defendant maintains that it does
not object to a reasonable modification of the schedule, but
asks that Plaintiff first be required to provide responses to
Defendant's outstanding discovery requests. (ECF No. 23).
has also filed a motion for summary judgment premised on
Plaintiff's failure to respond to its requests for
admission, which qualify as admissions under Fed.R.Civ.P.
36(a)(3) (ECF No. 24). Rule 36(a)(3) states that “[a]
matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served,
the party to whom the request is directed serves on the
requesting party a written answer or objection.”
Subsection (b), however, provides that admissions under Rule
36(a) may be withdrawn or amended on a motion by the party
that fails to respond “if it would promote the
presentation of the merits of the action and if the court is
not persuaded that it would prejudice the requesting party in
maintaining or defending the action on the merits.”
light of Plaintiff's pro se status, his apparent
financial difficulties, and the court's preference to
resolve cases on the merits, Plaintiff's motion to extend
discovery will be granted. Plaintiff will have fourteen days
to provide his initial disclosures and discovery will be
extended for sixty days, during which Plaintiff must respond
to Defendant's discovery requests and may serve his own
requests. Plaintiff is encouraged to submit discovery
requests quickly so as to allow Defendant time to respond to
any requests without further extension of the deadline.
Defendant's motions to compel will be denied without
prejudice to bringing them again should Plaintiff fail to
meet the amended schedule. Plaintiff's motion to extend
the scheduling order will also be construed as a motion to
withdraw his admissions, and Defendant's motion for
summary judgment will therefore similarly be denied without
Defendant's Motion for Leave to Amend
Defendant moves for leave to amend its counterclaim to add a
count seeking a declaration that Plaintiff's debts to it
were not discharged in Plaintiff's 2016 bankruptcy
proceedings. (ECF No. 17). Defendant argues that it can show
that Plaintiff did not include it on his bankruptcy schedule
and that it therefore had no notice of Plaintiff's
bankruptcy case. It further argues that it will be able to
show that Plaintiff's debt was non-dischargeable under 11
U.S.C. § 523(a)(2).
“failure to receive notice of the bankruptcy is
probably sufficient” cause to reopen a case on a motion
by a creditor, see In re Mutts, 131 B.R. 306, 307
(Bankr.E.D.Va. 1991) (citing Mullane v. Central Hanover
Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306 (1950)), bankruptcy
code dictates that a case should be “reopened in
the court in which such case was closed.” 11
U.S.C. § 350(b); see also Fed.R.Bankr.P. Rules
4007(a); 5010. Local Rule 402 also directs that,
“[p]ursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 157(a), all cases under
Title 11 of the United States Code and proceedings arising
under Title 11 or arising in or related to cases under Title
11 shall be deemed to be ...