Monday, February 27, 2023

Court Declines to Lift Stay in Civil Matter Due to Pending Criminal Case

In the case of Piazza v. Young, No. 4:19-CV-00180 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 14, 2023 Brann, C.J.), the court denied a Plaintiff’s Motion to Lift an Existing Discovery Stay Order in a case in which certain Defendants had secured a stay of any discovery due to a pending parallel criminal action.

In reviewing the Motion, the court addressed the following factors:

1. The extent to which the issues in the civil and criminal cases overlapped;

2. The status of the criminal proceedings, including whether any Defendants have been

3. The Plaintiff’s interests in expeditious civil proceedings weighed alongside the prejudice
to the Plaintiff caused by the delay;

4. The burden on the Defendants;

5. The interest of the court; and,

6. The public interests

In reviewing these factors, the court noted that the civil and criminal cases were identical in this matter arising out of an alleged fraternity hazing claims. The court also noted that the civil court would not penalize the Plaintiffs for any delays that may be caused by the criminal proceedings. For example, the court indicated that discovery deadlines could be extended if the criminal proceedings were not resolved by the time the deadlines expired.

The court additionally noted that the Defendants indicated that, should discovery be allowed to proceed, the Defendants would likely assert their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, which could lead to further discovery disputes.

The court also noted that, given the overlap between the civil case and the ongoing criminal actions, requiring the Defendants to proceed with discovery in the civil case and sit for depositions would create a real risk of undue prejudice for the Defendants.

Based upon an application of the factors to the case presented, the court denied the Motion to Lift the Stay.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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