Courts Required to Consider Continuance of Hearing on a Motion for Summary Judgment

Warkentin v. Federated Life Ins. Co., 594 Fed. Appx. 900 (9th Cir. Cal. 2014) has a great lesson for litigators:

“These consolidated appeals concern a dispute over a [an insurance policy].  We vacate the district court’s order granting summary judgment to Federated and remand for proceedings consistent with this disposition.

“The parties are familiar with the facts, so we will not recount them here. After realizing he failed to timely oppose Federated’s motion for summary judgment, Warkentin filed an opposition and requested that the district court “continue the [summary judgment] hearing 14 days to allow [Federated] time to reply to [Warkentin’s] Opposition.”  This request was filed the night before the hearing on the summary judgment motion. (Emphasis added.)  

“Warkentin’s request is most naturally read as a motion to extend the time for filing an opposition pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b).  Under this rule, when a motion to extend time is filed “after the time has expired,” the court may extend the time upon a showing of “good cause” and “excusable neglect.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B).  “To determine whether a party’s failure to meet a deadline constitutes ‘excusable neglect,’ courts must apply a four-factor equitable test, examining: (1) the danger of prejudice to the opposing party; (2) the length of the delay and its potential impact on the proceedings; (3) the reason for the delay; and (4) whether the movant acted in good faith.”  Ahanchian v. Xenon Pictures, Inc., 624 F.3d 1253, 1261 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P’ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395, 113 S. Ct. 1489, 123 L. Ed. 2d 74 (1993)).

A district court abuses its discretion by failing to engage in this four-factor test or at least the “equitable analysis” captured by the test. Id . at 1261.”

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